Maple Leafs Curse of the Crease: Toronto Finally Beats a Backup Goalie

Jon NeelyAnalyst IOctober 26, 2010

TORONTO - OCTOBER 26: Tyler Bozak #42 of the Toronto Maple Leafs celebrates his first goal of the year against the Florida Panthers during game action at the Air Canada Centre October 26, 2010 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Abelimages/Getty Images)
Abelimages/Getty Images

Colton Orr, tired of losing hockey games, decided to take matters into his own hands on Tuesday night in Toronto, ending what was turning into quite the little curse for the Maple Leafs.

It wasn't just that the Leafs had lost three-straight games after their great start to the season, but that they were on the losing end of each while their opponents had their backup goalie between the pipes.

And if you're going to be playoff team in the NHL, you don't lose three games in a row to backup goaltenders.

First, New York Islanders' backup, Dwayne Roloson, held the Buds to just one goal on 30 shots in a 2-1 overtime victory. A few nights later, Marty Biron did the same thing, stopping 31 shots as the New York Rangers pulled out a 2-1 regulation win.

And of course, there was the debacle in Philadelphia where the Leafs lost 5-2 to Brian Boucher (who's in for an injured Michael Leighton) and an explosive Flyer team.

It was starting to look like the Leafs would never again beat a second string net minder (okay, maybe a bit presumptuous), which may have been the reason the Florida Panthers rested starter Tomas Vokoun for the first time this season, starting Scott Clemmensen in his place on Tuesday night.

It may have not even crossed the minds of the Leaf players themselves, that they had only potted four goals in the past three games against masked men who spend the majority of the season getting comfortable on the end of the bench. They may have been oblivious to the fact that it wasn't just their poor play that was affecting their scoring ability, but the ever popular backup goalie curse.

But the curse was there. It was real.

And you can bet if the Panthers had walked into the ACC and won the game with Clemmensen in the crease, the Boston Bruins would follow suit Thursday night, and play their backup goalie too.

Oh, wait a minute, Boston doesn't have a backup. They just have Tuukka Rask, formally of the Maple Leafs, who was traded for nothing (Andrew Raycroft) in what will go down as one of the worst trades in the history of the universe (and NHL). And everyone and their brother knows the Bruins are starting Rask against the Leafs.

To, shall we say, remind the Leafs of what they no longer have. Sort of like your older brother stealing your Popsicle, and then enjoying it right in front of you.

But that's not important, because the curse ended at three games, after Orr decided he would tackle it head on. Literally.

And before the cries of hometown bias come flying in at me like missiles, that, my friends, was a penalty. In any rink, on any night, in any country in the world. That was goaltender interference.

But either the lights at the ACC went out again for a brief second while he mowed down Clemmensen, or we witnessed one of the worst missed calls we've ever seen. It even involved the Leafs' most penalized player, too, just to make it sting that much more.

But either way, Orr and the Leafs sent the curse of the crease packing, and when the dust settled on the no call frenzy, the hometown team walked off the ice with the 3-1 win.

As refs around the world saw their credibility crumble that much more.

It was no Boston Red Sox curse, but after the week of sheer panic that swept through Toronto like the plague, fans can now sit back and breathe a sigh of relief. Victorious once more. And against a backup goalie, no less.

Thought we'd never see the day.