Maple Leafs-Capitals Recap: Martin Gerber Makes Heroic Debut for Toronto

Derek HarmsworthSenior Writer IMarch 6, 2009

From zero to hero in 24 hours.  Oh, the life of a goaltender in the NHL.

Martin Gerber officially joined his new teammates for the first time last night in Washington and made several great saves. The Leafs topped the Washington Capitals, 2-1.

Gerber, picked up off waivers Wednesday morning, made 37 saves in his first victory with the Leafs. He did all of this while still wearing Senators' equipment, which was undoubtedly a little weird looking.

Looks aside, Gerber was pretty sharp, challenging shooters and using swift movements to make several big saves through the first 40 minutes.  After keeping the Caps off the board for the first two periods, his teammates rewarded his hard work.

Lee Stempniak and Pavel Kubina both scored third-period goals as part of a busy final 20 minutes of regulation, which made up for a rather quiet first two periods.

Despite firing 38 shots at the Leafs' net, any questions as to who should win the Hart Trophy were quickly erased, if the general definition is applied.

Without Alexander Ovechkin, who sat out this game while nursing a sore foot, the Capitals looked a little bit like a lost puppy.

Th excitement of every rush simply wasn't there.  They were not "rockin' the red." Truth be told, they had little bite and looked rather ordinary.

Alexander Semin broke Gerber's shutout bid with about 30 seconds remaining after Semin got the puck back off a Capitals' face-off win in the Leafs' zone. He walked a little bit, and let a hard wrist shot go that beat Gerber.

On replay, it was hard to tell whether he was screened a little bit on the play, or whether he was beaten clean.

Nevertheless, the Leafs took home a win, keeping Toronto's hot streak rolling.  The young, hardworking team has gained key points in their last eight games.  

And while the eighth and final playoff spot remains a long shot, particularly with how well the Penguins are playing of late, one has to admire the hard work this young team is putting into every game.

A team that had to call up a farm-hand and sign a free agent yesterday just to fill out their roster should logically not have been able to defeat, let alone hang close, with a powerhouse like the Capitals.

Instead, they worked hard, believed in each other, and were rewarded with the two points on this night in D.C.

Next up for the Leafs is a date with the Edmonton Oilers on CBC's Hockey Night In Canada on Saturday.

One has to believe, after his strong performance against Washington, Martin Gerber will get the call and make his second straight start for his new team.

In fact, logic would say we may see a lot of Gerber over the next few weeks. 

Coach Ron Wilson hasn't shown a ton of confidence in Curtis Joseph this season, and if Gerber gets on a hot streak, he won't be able to justify not playing him.

Oh, and of course for Martin himself, he has a date with the Ottawa Senators on the docket on Monday.

These skaters are playing for their jobs as they try to prove they belong on this team next year and beyond.

Gerber is playing for a job, knowing this could be his last shot to prove he still has it, and is still a good enough goalie to get another NHL contract this summer.

It's hard work that requires belief in yourself and in others.

And it's pretty damn exciting.


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