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November 14, 2005

Goalie. Sieve.

Perhaps it's inevitable for a team that's had rock-solid goaltending for almost the entirety of the last 12 years, but one of the most annoying golden tenets of the Leafs punditocracy is this: No Toronto Maple Leafs goaltender shall ever be said to have lost his team the game, or even to have come close, unless it is an attempt to suggest that the general manager of the moment should trade or buy out said goaltender, or that he should have done so long ago. Otherwise, the Toronto Maple Leafs goaltender shall be said, in the case of a Leafs win, to have single-handedly won his team yet another wholly undeserved victory, and in the case of a Leafs loss to have battled heroically in the face of the wholesale incompetence of his teammates, either of which shall in turn be used to suggest that the general manager of the moment be fired.

Still, one never really gets used to being told the sky is red. Says Ken Campbell today: "The Leafs were saved by Ed Belfour's goaltending…"

Ken Campbell is high. Belfour was terrible, again, and what's most amusing, Campbell admits it:

Once again, Belfour was equal parts brilliant and brutal, allowing two very stoppable goals and playing the puck like a live hand grenade, but was sharp in the first period when he kept what should have been a rout to a scoreless tie.

So sorry, but a goaltender cannot "save" his team while giving up two soft goals. He just can't. You can't save someone from a crisis that you yourself created — all you can do is salvage a little bit of redemption, and Belfour didn't even do that. What he did was bank one solid period and then put it in the tank. Despite Leafs fans' unfailing willingness to climb inside their goaltender's head for in search of forgiveness — he was screened, it was a rolling puck, why the hell did Berg put his stick out?, he was distracted by a flashbulb, that was goalie interference!, well maybe if we had a Canadian captain he wouldn't have to make those saves, etc. — the fact remains that Edward Belfour's job is to stop all the routine shots and a huge majority of the "unstoppable" ones. These days, it's not happening. I like Belfour, and I know he starts slow, but the facts are the facts.

The reason the Leafs are keeping their heads above water despite mediocre goaltending isn't the great riddle that the Toronto Star suggests it is. It's because they're a very talented team that has thus far been relatively healthy. Of course, the single most annoying golden tenet of the Leafs punditocracy is not to admit that, so expect more baffled befuddlement from Campbell, Cox & Co. as the Leafs soldier their way to yet another playoff berth.

Posted by Chris Selley at November 14, 2005 12:10 AM

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Posted by: Anonymous at March 9, 2006 09:44 AM