Jean-Sébastien Giguère Comes to Toronto for a Resurrection

After watching with disdain the way fans of the Montreal Canadiens have anointed and massacred Carey Price over the past two years I now find myself at the precipice of hypocrisy as I anticipate the arrival of of Jean-Sébastien Giguère in Toronto.  After being traded today for Vesa Toskala and Jason Blake I expect to see nothing less than the rebirth of Giguère.

It may not be the equivalent of Patrick Roy going to Colorado but make no mistake, J-S Giguère going to Toronto is huge for the Leafs and huge in the goalie world. This is a 12yr old Giguère with his idol Roy.

Others can debate cap hits and cash outlays until they’re (Leaf) blue in the face… none of that matters in this case.  How many Conn Smythe and Stanley Cup winners were on the Leafs yesterday?  None.  Today they not only have one in Giguère but they also have former Norris Trophy finalist Dion Phaneuf in front of him.  The Leaf universe has changed overnight and despite GM Brian Burke talking about Phaneuf being the centerpiece of the Flames deal, it’s Giguère who’s actually poised to become the face of the Leafs. Continue reading

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Cujo Gets his Chance

If 2008 has been the Year of the Backup then Curtis Joseph is probably looking forward to 2009!  It’s been a rough go this season for Cujo, his second stint as a Leaf, as he has put up some very un-Cujo like statistics (4.12 GAA, .843 SV% and .000 winning % vs. career numbers of 2.79 GAA, .906 SV% and .559 winning %)

Cujo is getting a chance to show he's not done yet.

Cujo is getting a chance to show he's not done yet.

Leaf coach Ron Wilson is giving Joseph back-to-back starts in an opportunity for Cujo to gain some confidence by getting some real playing time.  These games will be his first consecutive starts since backstopping Canada to the Spengler Cup last December.

Cujo makes a save in the first of consecutive starts.

Cujo makes a save in the first of consecutive starts.

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Justin Pogge to Make Leaf Debut Tonight

It’s not like the Toronto hockey press corps needed anything more to write about this season (new coach, new GM, Sundin-gate, another season of missing the playoffs) but now they finally get to cover Justin Pogge’s debut in the Leaft net tonight in Atlanta.

Pogge inherits 29 from Mike Palmateer and Felix Potvin

Pogge inherits 29 from Mike Palmateer and Felix Potvin

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2008 Has Been Year of the “Backup”

Marc-Andre Fleury returned to the Pittsburgh net tonight for the first time since injuring his groin a month ago, just one of many highly-paid #1 goalies who have missed significant playing time this season therefore thrusting his respective backup into a starting (and sometimes “starring”) role.  What’s significant about that?  Well for starters, never before has there been such a huge disparity between the salaries of A-level goalies vs. everyone else.   Until this past week Danny Saborin has kept the Penguins in each of their games compiling a 6-6-1 record with a .911 SV%.  Are those the numbers of a number one?  Not really, but the Pens have remained within striking distance of the Rangers and Flyers which is exactly what teams should expect from backups, i.e. give them a chance to win when the number one is out.  For 1/10th the cost ($512k vs. $5M for Fleury) Saborin did his job.  Here’s a look at some of the other backups finding themselves with a chance to play in the limelight this seaon.

Tim Thomas shooting for the number one position.

Tim Thomas shooting for the number one position.

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Goalie Shot of the Day

Mike Palmateer Interview

Mike Palmateer was the most entertaining goalie (apologies to Johnny Bower) to wear the blue and white.

Mike Palmateer was the most entertaining goalie (apologies to Johnny Bower) to wear the blue and white.

Mike Palmateer was the most acrobatic NHL goalie of the late 70’s and early 80’s, and to this day is still a favorite of Leafs fans. Mike was kind enough to talk to me during a rare day off from his current job of being an amateur scout for the Leafs. I caught up with him after his last fishing trip of the year so he was kind of sad about finally having to put his boat away for the winter. I started our conversation by telling him one my favorite memories, getting to meet him and Rick Vaive after a Leafs practice when I was 12 or 13 years old and then having lunch at the Hot Stove Lounge at the old Maple Leaf Gardens. To this day it’s one of the best days of my life. He actually had a similar memory of getting to go to the Hot Stove Lounge with his dad when he was a kid. When I told him about how he had come out of the locker room to meet me he asked if I was playing in goal back then. I told him I was and that I had first become a goalie at the age of four because I couldn’t skate so I thought I could hang onto the posts. That got a laugh out of him and the best thing overall about the interview is that he laughed a lot. He talked about how he became the Popcorn Kid, the ’78 Leafs, his somewhat-recurring role on a TV sitcom and how he ended up with the famous design on his mask.

TendersLounge: The first question actually comes from my dad: which rink had the best popcorn?”

Mike Palmateer: (laughing) Someone came to interview me in junior and saw me eating popcorn before a game. We used to get to the rink two hours early and would be kind of hungry and the only thing we could get at the concessions was popcorn. They weren’t even open yet but we’d knock on the back door and they’d give us some popcorn. So the reporter asked me if I ate popcorn before every game and I said ‘Not really’. But when the article came out the next day he called me The Popcorn Kid. The best popcorn was the London Gardens, but I didn’t really eat it every game. To be honest though most of the time when I go to games today I end up getting popcorn. But when I’m in Quebec I get a hot dog because they’re good.

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“Always Leave with the One Who Brung ‘Ya”

This was my dad’s advice to me when I went to high school dances.  That is to say, if you take a girl to a dance then you stay with that girl to end of the evening and make sure she gets home happy and safe.  You don’t look for a new date at the end of the evening and leave her jilted and embarrassed.

Coaches have never been shy to pull a goalie if he’s playing poorly or the team needs a wake-up call.  Heck, Mike Keenan probably dreams about it in his sleep.  But they NEVER, EVER pull the goalie right before the start of a shootout.  At least they didn’t, until Leafs new coach Ron Wilson did it to Vesa Toskala last night in a game against the Ducks.  With the game tied 2-2 after OT Wilson removed Toskala, who was quite warm after playing 65 minutes of hockey, and replaced him with Curtis Joseph, who was probably quite cold after sitting on the bench for 65 minutes of hockey.  Cujo didn’t make any saves in the shootout and the Ducks won.  (The Leafs didn’t score any shootout goals either but that’s another story for someone else to cover)

Wilson defended the move afterwards by saying “we had nothing to lose”.  Toskala and Joseph said all the right things afterwards (more here as well) but how do you feel if you’re Toskala and the coach basically says “we’ve got no chance to win the shootout with you in net”.  The Leafs were in for a long season anyway but for Toskala it’s starting to look a bit longer with Keenan, I mean Wilson, looking over his shoulder.