Blues' task - score on Hasek

Thursday, May 2, 2002

DETROIT -- After a shaky start in the playoffs, Dominik Hasek showed why the Detroit Red Wings fought other suitors -- including St. Louis -- to acquire the six-time Vezina Trophy winner and two-time NHL MVP.

Hasek, acquired last summer from Buffalo, was solid as the Red Wings won four straight to beat Vancouver in six games and advance to face the Blues. The second-round series starts Thursday night.

While stopping just 37 shots while losing the first two games to the Canucks, Hasek was cheered sarcastically at times in Joe Louis Arena. He responded by stopping 97 shots and earning one shutout in the next four wins.

But Hasek insists there is no feeling of vindication.

"I'm just glad I did my job, and we made it to the second round," he said. "I won four games. But it's not about shutouts or save percentages. It's about wins. Our confidence was a little low after the first two games, but in the playoffs it doesn't matter if you win a series 4-3 or 4-0."

And in Hockeytown, the only thing that matters is winning the Stanley Cup.

That's why the Red Wings restocked their already talented roster with free-agent forwards Brett Hull and Luc Robitaille, traded for one of the best goaltenders ever and paid him $8 million for the season.

Forwards and defensemen can make mistakes and be overlooked. A goalie can't.

"There's always pressure on the goalie," Hasek said. "But I think there is extra pressure after the season we had."

Hull knows the feeling as a sniper-for-hire, who left St. Louis after 10-plus seasons in 1998 to help the Dallas Stars win the 1999 Stanley Cup.

"When I first went to Dallas, I was supposed to be the missing piece to the puzzle," Hull said. "It feels like the whole world is on your shoulders."

Hasek is used to that feeling.

He carried the Czech Republic to a gold medal in the 1998 Olympics, and was the reason Buffalo advanced to the 1999 Stanley Cup finals only to lose to the Stars when Hull beat him for the series-winning goal in overtime of Game 6.

"Pressure is something I've dealt with my whole life as a goalie," Hasek said.

The Blues also have a strong goalie, especially in these playoffs.

Brent Johnson is a big reason St. Louis eliminated Chicago in five games in the first round. He tied a league record with consecutive shutouts in Games 2, 3 and 4.

"We're playing better hockey," Johnson said. "Everyone feels comfortable."

The Blues hope to make Hasek feel uncomfortable, like the Canucks did at times.

"Look at the goals in Games 1 and 2 that Vancouver did score on them," said Blue defenseman Al MacInnis. "A lot of them were traffic goals in front of the net with a lot of deflections.

"Dominik if he sees the shot, its 99-percent sure he'll stop it. We've got to get in front of the net, stop in front of the net, look for rebounds."

Hasek realizes he has never had a better chance to win his first Stanley Cup.

If he does complete his career with a Stanley Cup ring, will he retire?

"My focus is on the playoffs," said the 37-year-old goaltender. "We can talk about that after."

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