Full Panic Mode - Pogge to the Rescue
LOS ANGELES-With the club having all but quit on head coach Paul Maurice after two one-sided losses in California, the Maple Leafs are in full panic mode today.
As first reported by The Star, the Leafs summoned blue-chip goaltending prospect Justin Pogge from the minors after last night's appalling 5-2 loss to Los Angeles, possibly setting Pogge up to start tomorrow night in San Jose. No. 1 netminder Vesa Toskala has suffered a relapse in his ongoing battle with groin problems after being recklessly forced into action for the final two periods of the embarrassing loss to the Kings.
The Leafs have also claimed Domenic Moore, brother of Steve Moore, on waivers from Minnesota. Moore is an energetic checker who could add some pizzazz to the team's fourth line.
Meanwhile, confusion reigned this morning in the Leaf camp. Practice was cancelled, which was a surprise to some of the most senior members of the team, including captain Mats Sundin.
There is growing speculation head coach Paul Maurice could be in jeopardy after desultory way in which the club responded to a critical game against the Kings, as well as the manner in which Toskala was rushed back into service last night after the Leafs were already down 4-0.
Toskala was expecting to have the night off, but played after former starter Andrew Raycroft surrendered four goals on 11 shots in the first period against the Kings.
If that happens, it will be a difficult task indeed for Pogge, with all evidence suggesting the club is no longer responding to the direction of Maurice after 10 losses in the past 12 games. All political antennae are on high, and even the Leaf players are aware team president Richard Peddie is hovering over the club in what is turning out to be a disastrous California road trip.
A smarter decision would be to bring back veteran Scott Clemmensen, who left the club on Thursday and returned to the Marlies. But with the entire hockey organization expecting major changes because of the dreadful results of late, recalling Pogge is likely to make a bigger splash, perhaps the last ditch effort of the Ferguson regime to put the club into a playoff position.
The Leafs were nightmarishly bad Thursday night, managing only seven shots on the L.A. net in the opening 27 minutes of action as the Kings cruised to a 5-0 lead. It was only after the game was decided that the Leafs got busy, putting 43 shots on Jason Labarbara in the Kings net after the game was already decided.
Maurice denied that his team has quit on him.
"If they'd quit you'd have seen three periods like the first period," said the Leaf coach.
Truth was, the lazy, disinterested manner in which the Leafs played the opening 27 minutes was much more reflective of their attitude towards their coach than the final half of the game.
"Trust me, we're under a lot of pressure," said centre Matt Stajan. "We know what's going on."