by John McCauley
February 12, 2004
(TORONTO) -- The Eagle returned to his perch guarding the Leafs' net after a three game absence.
Ed Belfour looked comfortable, made several key saves and handled the puck well in the Leafs 4-1 win over the Columbus Blue Jackets Thursday.
10 days off to rest his ailing back appeared to be just what the netminder ordered to prepare for the stretch run.
This game wasn't exactly the toughest test for the Leafs though. Columbus tired as the game went on, most likely due to playing Monday night. Toronto, which normally plays better when emotion is involved, was able to avoid losing to a lesser opponent. Losses to teams like Carolina and Chicago over the last little while was cause to worry for the squad.
"It wasn't a very intense game, but we were able to be smart enough defensively to get the two points," Bryan McCabe said.
Defence was an issue in the first period with more than a few giveaways, but Toronto tightened up as the game went on and it allowed them to keep pace with Boston and Ottawa in the Northeast.
"If you are rational about it, these are must wins. In games like this it's tough to drum up that emotion. That's when you have to rely on being a professional," head coach Pat Quinn said.
The man who takes his job most seriously is Belfour.
| Alexander Svitov and the Jackets couldn't sustain their first-period play. |
(Graig Abel Photography)
Upon his return the Eagle was none too pleased about proposed rule changes made by the NHL's GMs. Decreasing the size of goalie pads to 10 inches and not allowing goaltenders to play the puck behind the goal line, not surprisingly, got the veteran keeper's back up or at least his funny bone.
"I think they're a joke," Belfour said following Tuesday's practice. "It's embarrassing that someone would even propose something like that.
"We measured Bryan Marchment's shin pads. They're eight inches. Basically, they want us to wear defenceman's shin pads."
"That's not even the worst I heard," Belfour said setting up the punch line. "The worst one I heard was every time the goalie goes down and plays the butterfly, they are going to give him a two-minute penalty and one foul. If you get three fouls, you are out of the game."
Clearly the Eagle needs to work on his stand up routine, but he did get his point across. One thing that does please Belfour is the fact these changes aren't set in stone. They have to be approved by the Board of Governors this summer.
More ideas will be tabled at that time.
"I guess we're doing it. I hope we're not," said Pat Quinn. "It is just in the recommendation stage."
Keeping Belfour happy is in the best interest of the Leafs considering their Cup aspirations.
"He gives us such a chance to win," said Gary Roberts, who scored his 22nd of the season. "After we got a couple goals it was nice to give him a break for a change. He's faced a lot of rubber this year."
NO DEBUT FOR THE DRAKE
Pat Quinn didn't use his newest addition Drake Berehowsky in the game, instead staying with his regular six defencemen.
Berehowsky has been all over since he was traded from the Leafs in April 1995 for Pittsburgh Penguins' rearguard Grant Jennings. Stops in Edmonton, Nashville, Vancouver and Phoenix delivered him back to the Leafs from his second stint in Pittsburgh. He was originally drafted 10th overall by the Leafs in 1990.
It isn't known when the 32-year-old will get a chance.
NOT FEELING WELL
Both Tie Domi and Owen Nolan played in the game despite feeling less than 100 per cent. Nolan is still feeling some flu symptoms and Domi took a stick to the throat on Tuesday in Tampa.