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Goaltending The Name Of The Game

by Mike Ulmer / Toronto Maple Leafs
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Ah, goaltending.

Remember goaltending?

In Toronto there have been a cat in Felix Potvin and a dog in Cujo. Goalies have been famous in Toronto for what they ate, popcorn for Mike Palmateer, almost everything else for Turk Broda.

There have been goalies who were better somewhere else: Bernie Parent, Jacques Plante and Terry Sawchuk come to mind. Some were eccentric. Ed Belfour used to get up in the middle of the night in Dallas and go visit his equipment. Sawchuk kept his body parts after they were surgically removed. Goalies can be very sentimental.

Anyway, they were talking about goaltending Saturday at Air Canada Centre in the same context they talk about gravity in space. The Leafs lost 7-5 by the way.

There aren’t any goalies for the Maple Leafs right now, at last any really consistently excellent ones. Curtis Joseph, after his wonderful night Tuesday against Washington was yanked in Buffalo on Friday.  Rookie Justin Pogge was likewise turfed by Leafs’ coach Ron Wilson Saturday after six goals in jut 20 shots including the last two in a row. Wilson called a time-out after Boston’s fifth goal, a long slapper from Shawn Thornton. Wilson challenged Pogge…not to a fight, but to do better.

“I brought him over and I wanted to know if he could continue,” Wilson said. “You’ve got to show us you can battle through this.”

“It was kind of a slap on the ass (to make me) try to get back into it,” Pogge said. “Unfortunately the first shot when I got back was a breakaway.”

David Krejci burst in untouched with Wilson’s words still ringing in Pogge’s ears. Krejci scored easily and that was it for Pogge who was more than a little disconsolate after the game.

“I’m definitely not happy,” he said. “But it wasn’t all bad. I made some good saves. Tomorrow is another day.”

Take whatever comfort you like from that.

Pogge is 1-5 in his Maple Leafs appearances and wouldn’t you know, Wilson was left disappointed with his play

“He’s got to learn and he’s got to grow up and mature and be ready,” Wilson said. “He wasn’t as ready as he needed to be tonight. He knew he was starting and he had trouble handling it.”

All this goes back to Vesa Toskala, who endured a sub-par season we now know because of hip problems. Toskala won’t be back on the ice after his hip surgery. He was in the ACC press box on Saturday but has given way to Martin Gerber who was rescued from the waiver wire. Gerber had been playing adequately before incurring a three game suspension, which brings us to back Joseph, beaten once on 11 Boston tries in relief of Pogge.

If there’s a bright side, it’s that Pogge wasn’t the only issue. Yes, I know, not much of a bright side. The Leafs blew a 4-3 lead as Boston goalie Manny Fernandez appeared as shaky as the Leafs rookie netminder.

“We have to be better in terms of blocking shot and getting in the shooting lanes to help the goalie,” said Alexei Ponikarovsky, who scored twice and now sits on a career-high 23 goals.

Playing in his first game after missing 13 games with a concussion, Niklas Hagman scored his 20th. It was the 100th marker of his career.

“It was nice to score the 20th and 100th goals so it doesn’t go on and on, but I just wish we had won the game,” Hagman said.

John Mitchell scored his 10th. Nikolai Kulemin added his 14th.

The loss dropped the Maple Leafs to 31-32-13.

They host the Flyers on Wednesday. While they are not quite mathematically eliminated, they have six games remaining in their season.

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