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Connecting the Dots

by Staff Writer / Toronto Maple Leafs



Now in his fifth season with
Leafs TV, you can watch Brian Duff hosting pre- and post-game shows for all the breaking news surrounding the Blue and White.

December 5, 2005

(Toronto) -- For the better part of the past week, a fair amount of attention has been paid to Leafs netminder Ed Belfour and his climb up the NHL's all-time wins list.

His 447th victory last Monday in Florida elevated him into a second place tie with Terry Sawchuk, who also, and perhaps forever, will stand as the leagues' shutout king with 103.

For all the talk about French-Canadians being the most dominant at the games' toughest position, (they can boast three of  the top 6 winners, including Jacques Plante who was passed earlier this season by Belfour) one senses there must be a certain amount of pride being felt in Manitoba thanks to a Hall of Famer from Winnipeg, and the kid from Carman who will undoubtedly follow in his footsteps.

And hearing the Eagle talk about Sawchuk, a player he never dreamed of being mentioned with in the same breath, makes one realize not only how small the hockey world is, but that if you look hard enough, you can make connections...EVERYWHERE.

 

Ed Belfour chose the NCAA route, starring for one season at the University of North Dakota. In the 1986-87 season he went 29-3-0, while the Fighting Sioux were led by Hobey Baker winner Tony Hrkac and claimed a National title with a decision over Michigan State.  Twelve years later the two were together again, winning a Stanley Cup with the Dallas Stars.

The current outfit at UND is backstopped by Jordan Parise, whose brother Zach is a teammate of Martin Brodeur, the man whom most feel has the best shot at not only passing Sawchuk and Belfour, but also Patrick Roy as the winningest goaltender ever.

Brodeur sits 6th on the list right now at 414, just 9 shy of Tony Esposito.

Had Belfour not turned pro after only one season in the WCHA, he would have, in his junior year, become a conference rival of one Curtis Joseph, who starred at Wisconsin in 1988-89.

On Saturday, Joseph became seventh best on the wins list, with career "W" 408, passing Glenn Hall in the process.

Ironically on the same night, Hall's grandson Grant Stevenson helped the San Jose Sharks deny Belfour his 448th victory. Stevenson was born in Spruce Grove, Alberta, which is also the birthplace of Grant Fuhr, number nine on the wins list with 403.

Fuhr of course was an arch-rival of No. 10 on the list, long-time Flame Mike Vernon (385).

The Belfour-Joseph connection remains a fascinating one. Despite being two years older, it was Eddie who succeeded Cujo in the Leafs crease in the fall of 2002, and since that time, he has definitely been the better of the two.

But you can be sure that a legion of Leafs fans has been more impressed with the dozen double-u's posted by Curtis this season, and the fact that he is again garnering attention for Canada's Olympic team. And with Joseph having changed the foundation of his game, potentially lengthening his career by two, three, or maybe even four seasons, it's not unrealistic to think that Joseph could finish his career in the top three on the all-time wins list.
Of course, Leafs goaltending consultant Steve McKichan said on Saturday that he wouldn't be surprised if three years from now, we're talking about Belfour passing Roy!

And maybe all of this bodes well for Jordan Parise.  Now in his junior season at UND, Parise was not drafted. And neither were Belfour and Joseph.

NCAA notes:

The number one team in U-S college hockey right now is Wisconsin, currently riding a 13-game unbeaten streak, and featuring Maple Leafs prospect Robbie Earl (187th overall in 2004).

Earl, a junior, is second in Badgers scoring with 18 points in 15 games, and is on pace to surpass his sophomore stats of 44 points in 41 games.

Under the guidance of former NHL'er Mike Eaves, Earl's role has expanded to include penalty killing duties this year. Here's a recent quote from his coach that was posted on uwbadgers.com.

"I think Robbie is willing to play and understands a little bit more about how to play away from the puck. What makes him dangerous as a person you might have on a penalty killing or, you know, when the other team pulls their goaltender, the fact that he can make plays. A ... he can get there, B ... he's got a good stick, and C ... once the puck is on the stick, he can get the puck out or make a play. So it's about his growth as a total hockey player. And, when you're on a power play and you're playing against a guy like Robbie, you know, you're going to be a little bit more leery of, maybe you're thinking a little bit about how to defend him as opposed to just trying to score. So, you know, his growth away from the puck and his willingness to want to do that makes him a weapon in that area now."    

The Badgers 05-06 roster features 11 NHL draft picks including a pair who could someday meet in the Battle of Ontario: Earl for the Leafs and goaltender Brian Elliot for the Senators. A native of Newmarket,  Elliot was selected 291st overall in 2003 and right now leads all NCAA goalies in wins, minutes played, goals against average, and save percentage.

The Leafs final selection, 228th overall, at the 2005 draft, Chad Rau is off to an impressive start in his freshman year at Colorado College. Rau factored in on two of the Tigers three goals this past weekend in a pair of losses to the defending champions, Denver.

The 5'10 Rau, last year's USHL rookie of the year, has 13 points in his first 18 games, including 4 power play goals.

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