Andrew Podnieks is the author of numerous hockey books including an updated version of The Blue and White Book for the 2001-02 season, Portraits of the Game, Canada's Olympic Hockey Teams, and The NHL All-Star Game: Fifty Years of the Great Tradition. He also writes a column called "Pods Shots" for the Hockey Hall of Fame Web site.
by Andrew Podnieks
TORONTO -- Last summer, Corey Schwab didn't have a clue what sort of mask design to paint. He had no contract, no team, no definable future.
He came into the Leafs camp and played well enough to win the role as Curtis Joseph's backup, and when the unthinkable happened --an injury to Cujo-- Schwab filled the hole.
He has done nothing wrong. He hasn't clearly lost any game for the Leafs, and he has proved that he can be a first rate second-string netminder. But, if the Leafs are to get the job done in the playoffs, they'll need Cujo back in the blue ice.
Schwab's record is fine (10-10-5) and his goals against well under 3.00. His stats show that he's been right there as an excellent goalie, but the numbers don't tell the story that separates a top flight from a just-below top flight goalie.
Too often Schwab has let in a softie to open the scoring. Too often he's allowed the opponent to tie the score and get back in the game. And too often he hasn't made that big save that becomes the difference between a win and a loss.
It's not always a matter of keeping the puck out, it's a matter of keeping the puck out at particular moments of a game. And for that, Schwab alone is not to blame.
The simple fact is that players play offence and defence based on how they see their goalie. Just ask Buffalo, a team that has played much more poorly on offence this season than last because their goalie, Dominik Hasek, is no longer there.
Players feed off the confidence a goalie exudes, and this comes from making the timely save. Case in point was the Rangers game last week.
Dan Blackburn, the 18-year-old sensation, kept his team in the game early on, and the Rangers opened a 1-0 lead on their first shot of the game. The Leafs stormed back to tie the score 2-2, but in the third they scored twice to win 4-2.