Game 646 – Maple Leafs 2, Canadiens 0

Game 646
Maple Leafs 2, Canadiens 0
Saturday, October 7, 2000
Air Canada Centre, Toronto, Ontario

The more things change…

It was a night when the Maple Leafs unveiled their new look, out of the phone booth gritty lineup. The referees gave a taste of the new slash free, penalty filled NHL. And the fans gave former captain Wendel Clark a warm and classy sendoff with a two minute standing ovation.

But no matter how much Toronto alters its players, its sweaters or its icons, the essential truth about this club remains the same. It will go only as far as Curtis Joseph, its unflappable goaltender, can carry them.

It was Joseph last night who, as the Leafs offence faded into oblivion and the defence struggled to find a comfort zone, allowed a first period Jonas Hoglund goal to stand up as the winner. Toronto got a little breathing room when Sergei Berezin buried an Igor Korolev pass with just over three minutes remaining to seal the win. Both goals were power play markers.

The 2 0 victory over Montréal means Joseph, who made 26 saves for his 27th career shutout, has won each of his three season openers since signing with the Leafs in 1998. Joseph now has shutouts in the last two home openers and this one, in a game when Toronto killed 12 penalties, was often breathtaking.

“That was one of the best displays of goaltending I’ve seen,” said Gary Roberts, an off season addition to the Leafs lineup who was getting a new perspective on what Toronto fans are now accustomed.

“I was on the bench shaking my head. It was a treat to watch. I’ve seen goalies come up big like that in the playoffs but not in the regular season. The big thing for us is that we can’t let him work that hard every night.”

As recently as a week ago, there were questions as to whether Joseph would be even able to start last night because of a groin injury but from the moment the air was out of the bagpipes of the 48th Highlanders, he repeatedly took the wind out of Montréal’s attack.

“We’ve been working hard as a group not to be dependent on him to win us all the hockey games,” said coach Pat Quinn.

“I think we’ve achieved that to a point but tonight he was the guy who stepped forward and got us in a position where we were able to get a couple of points.”

Joseph’s injury will remain a talking point most of the season but he demonstrated in dramatic fashion last night that his health, at least right now, is not a factor. A groin stretching save on Oleg Petrov off a 2-on-1 in the first period quickly put that concern to rest.

“It feels pretty good,” said Joseph afterwards, conceding that a clearer indication of his health will come after a night’s sleep. “That was full test tonight and the strength was there. That was the important thing.”

Toronto had five players in its lineup that were making their debuts in Leafs’ uniforms. Dave Manson, Gary Roberts, Shayne Corson, Bryan McCabe and rookie Petr Svoboda were all playing their first games in blue and white and the club’s awkwardness together was apparent.

Part of that may have been rust since Toronto played its last exhibition game a week ago today and part of it was the fact referees Bill McCreary and Lance Roberts called 16 minor penalties while fulfilling the league’s mandate to crack down on infractions such as slashing, hits to the head and obstruction.

The toughness the Leafs added over the summer wasn’t readily apparent. It didn’t need to be. Instead a player like Berezin, given a little more room because of the calls, played a very strong game.

“We certainly don’t know how we’re going to play, what kind of style,” said captain Mats Sundin.

“It’s tough to know what kind of identity we’re going to have as a team. Certainly it looks like we’re searching for our identity. Hopefully we’ll find it over the next couple of weeks.”

The newcomers had varying degrees of success but perhaps the most notable play belonged to defenceman Manson. He’d struggled during the pre season but tightened his game up considerably against the Canadiens, one of his former teams, and may have been Toronto’s best defender.

Corson struggled with the new interpretations of the rules, taking four minor penalties, all called by Roberts.

“I think some of the calls were pretty questionable,” said Corson. “But what player isn’t going to say that.”

If the league doesn’t relax its officiating, as it usually does after these crackdowns are put in place, then the players will have to adapt. And Joseph will be ever more crucial to any Toronto success.

“I hope it doesn’t turn the fans off before the players figure it out,” said Roberts. “There’s got to be a better balance between what is a slash and what isn’t a slash. When the ref’s arm goes up you shouldn’t have both teams and 18,000 fans trying to find the call.”

Based on how the game was officiated, Joseph offered some advice: “All you poolies out there, take power play guys.”

Story originally published in The Toronto Star, October 8, 2000

1st Period
TOR PEN – 00:44 – Yushkevich, hooking
MTL PEN – 07:00 – Brisebois, tripping
TOR PEN – 07:15 – Markov, slashing
MTL PEN – 09:09 – Markov, slashing
MTL PEN – 10:59 – Laflamme, slashing
TOR PP2 GOAL – 11:07 – Hoglund (Thomas, Sundin)
TOR PEN – 14:36 – Corson, high sticking
TOR PEN – 17:00 – Svoboda, interference

2nd Period
MTL PEN – 04:17 – Shannon, slashing
MTL PEN – 06:33 – Markov, slashing
TOR PEN – 07:29 – Khristich, interference
TOR PEN – 17:50 – Corson, roughing
TOR PEN – 20:00 – Corson, high sticking

3rd Period
MTL PEN – 03:40 – Rucinsky, holding
TOR PEN – 06:31 – Corson, interference
MTL PEN – 11:50 – Laflamme, interference
TOR GOAL – 16:42 – Berezin (Korolev, Yushkevich)
TOR PEN – 19:56 – Korolev, slashing

TOR – Joseph (W + SO, 26-26)
MTL – Hackett (L, 16-18)

TOR – 7+6+5 = 18
MTL – 9+12+5 = 26

TORGoaltenders: Glenn Healy, Curtis Joseph. Defence: Tomas Kaberle, Dave Manson, Danny Markov, Bryan McCabe (A), Petr Svoboda, Dmitri Yushkevich. Forwards: Sergei Berezin, Shayne Corson, Tie Domi, Jonas Hoglund, Dmitri Khristich, Igor Korolev, Alyn McCauley, Gary Roberts (A), Mats Sundin (C), Steve Thomas, Darcy Tucker, Garry Valk.

MTLGoaltenders: Mathieu Garon, Jeff Hackett. Defence: Patrice Brisebois, Christian Laflamme, Andrei Markov, Craig Rivet (A), Darryl Shannon, Eric Weinrich. Forwards: Benoît Brunet, Jim Campbell, Craig Darby, Xavier Delisle, Saku Koivu (C), Trevor Linden, Oleg Petrov, Patrick Poulin, Martin Rucinsky, Brian Savage (A), P.J. Stock, Sergei Zholtok.

TOR – 1-0-0-0 (1.000)
MTL – 0-2-0-0 (.000)


Curtis Joseph (TOR)
⭐⭐ Brian Savage (MTL)
⭐⭐⭐ Jonas Hoglund (TOR)