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The great Candian goalie race -- Part II

by Staff Writer / Toronto Maple Leafs
by Andrew Podnieks

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.


And include in that list of questions one about why Martin Brodeur, the most consistent and winningest goalie in the last decade, is playing hot and cold and not taking a Salt Lake job that is his for the taking.

And so Curtis Joseph is the man of the hour. Yet, his play all season has been middling at best. In the first game of the year, against Ottawa, he was brutal, on its own not a portent of misery, but certainly it might have been the first game he played as a Leaf where you could point the finger at him and say he's the main reason we lost that game.

Then he bounced back, as we always know he will, and settled in to a bit of a groove. But the night of December 15, after being named to Canada's team just hours earlier, he again played poorly, and since the New Year he has let in goals he never would have a year ago. Fatigue? Pressure? Contract distractions? An inability to overcome inconsistency?

Curtis Joseph may have the inside track for Team Canada's goalie job at the Olympics.
Whatever the answer, this is not the time to play anything below spectacular. He has let in the goals that should go in, the kind any of use would let in. That's not good enough. He hasn't stolen a game in ages. He has gambled and lost too often on his positioning.

True, his defence withTeam Canada will be better than he's been seeing this year, but at this point you'd have to say that he has to turn his game around if he is to be the number one goalie. That sounds like an odd statement when the subject is CUJO, but right now it's the truth.

In Atlanta, they can say that Heatley made a great play to win the game for the Thrashers. But in these parts, that was a shot that never should have gone in. In Philly, they can talk about Brashear playing the best hockey of his career, but here you wonder how a fighter can beat Joseph with a shot from, well, anywhere. The Leafs beat Nashville at home despite Joseph, Theodore outplayed him badly in the Montreal game, and on other nights he has lost the proverbial goaltenders' battle to the guy at the other end.

Joseph has done so much for this city and team, on ice and off, and we here in Leafland know he's been phenomenal the past three and a half years. But if he wants to prove he's capable of winning a Cup, then he has to win gold at Salt Lake. And in order to do that, he's got to play himself onto the starting roster.

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