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05-22-2011, 10:36 PM
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Warning: long post on Curtis Joseph. Summary: it's funny how he was considered a clutch goaltender for most of his career, and then his reputation swung in the opposite direction based on one game in the 2002 Olympics and one series in the 2003 playoffs.

I watched Curtis Joseph quite a lot while he was with the Leafs. At the time, he was widely considered to be among the best goalies in the league. Pat Quinn picked him over Martin Brodeur to start the 2002 Olympics for Canada. Maybe there was a bit of a homer element, but the debate had been going on in the media for the previous year as to whether Joseph or Brodeur should be the starter, and there was no consensus one way or the other. If anything, the Toronto media leaned toward Joseph.

At the time Joseph was considered anything but a choker. No, he hadn't won anything. But he had been absolutely spectacular in losing causes in the 1993, 1997, and 1998 playoffs before coming to Toronto. And in Toronto, while the Leafs were winning, nobody blamed it on Cujo. Rather, he was keeping them in series that they didn't deserve to be in.

Was Joseph overrated at the time? Maybe a little in the Canadian media. His great 1993 playoffs had a series against Toronto, in which he was phenomenal. His starring role in first round upsets later in the decade took place in Edmonton. And his arrival in Toronto sparked (or coincided with) the resurrection of Toronto as a contender.

But if the Canadian media had overrated Joseph before, they turned on him hard after 2002. One loss against Sweden, for whatever reason, established him as a choker. It's as if everyone decided "OK, he finally got his chance with a good team. He failed. Case closed."

It didn't help that Detroit lost in the playoffs the next two years after he joined them. Never mind that Joseph had a 1.64 GAA and a .931 SV% in those playoffs, and that Detroit scored a combine 9 goals in their 8 losses.

Quotes on Curtis Joseph during his career. Especially from the playoffs - both because that's perceived as his weakness, and because that's where the best quotes are available.

May 17, 1993 - Dave Luecking in the St Louis Post-Dispatch:
As longtime National Hockey League coach Roger Neilson wrote Sunday in the Toronto Star, "The Leafs were stronger than the Blues in almost every area."

They limited the shots against rookie goalie Felix Potvin, who played a steady if unspectacular series. Blues goalie Curtis Joseph played a more spectacular series under a heavier workload, but he lost to Potvin because Potvin's team played better.
The Blues didn't exactly dominate in their victories. They won only one period in each game - the overtime in Game 2, the second period in Game 3 and the final period in Game 6. When they played Toronto to a draw, it was mostly because of the play of Joseph.

If not for his stellar performance, the Blues might have been blown out in the first two games - both double-overtime thrillers - when he stopped 118 of 121 shots.

Joseph took a physical beating in the series as Toronto hitmen, led by veteran Mike Foligno, charged the net with abandon. Foligno accidently cut Joseph's neck with a skate in Game 1, knocking off Joseph's mask and sending him to the bench for repairs.

Joseph's mask was knocked off four times in the series, three times in the first two games when Toronto players charged him and in the finale on Wendel Clark's slap shot.

"I don't remember ever playing where I've been so banged up," Joseph said. "It was a very physical series, even more so than the Chicago series."

The Blackhawks also tried to intimidate Joseph by bumping him in the first round, but their strategy failed miserably. Chicago's bumps led to penalties against the Blackhawks. Toronto's bumps led to retaliation penalties against the Blues, who lost the composure that was so important in their sweep of the Blackhawks.
May 23, 1993 - Dave Luecking, St Louis Post-Dispatch
Curtis Joseph, A+. "Cujo" stepped forward as the Blues' best player, facing a barrage of shots night after night and emerging as one of the NHL's elite goalies. Despite facing a club-record 2,202 shots, he led the NHL with a .911 save percentage.
May 2, 1997 - Tom Wheatley, St Louis Post-Dispatch
Joseph conceded that "it's a little surprising" that coach Ron Low's green team is clicking so well.

"When I first came here, there were a lot of fringe players who were up and down in Cape Breton," Joseph said of Edmonton's top farm team. "Now I see all these players who are stepping up and who are not only NHL players, but are playing big in the playoffs."

They would have been long gone by now, if not for Joseph.

He threw two shutouts at the Stars and went 3-0 in overtime - including a 1-0 stunner in double OT in Game 5 - and made a series-saving stop just before Todd Marchant's overtime winner in Game 7.

Joseph carries the same load that he did with the Blues from 1990-95. For his team to have any hope, he must weather a blizzard of rubber.
May 12, 1997 - Larry Wigge, Sporting News
"If you don't think a goalie can intimidate shooters" says Oilers coach Ron Low, a former goalie himself, "all you had to do was read the body language when Dallas was skating to the bench after Cujo made that save on Nieuwendyk.

"Their chins were on their chests. They were devastated. We won the game on the next shift."
May 5, 1998 - John Moussman, AP

A day earlier, Edmonton goalie Curtis Joseph insisted he was feeling “confident but not unbeatable.”

The Colorado Avalanche must respectfully disagree.

Joseph recorded his second straight shutout and Bill Guerin scored his sixth goal of the playoffs, helping the Oilers clinch their first-round upset of the Avalanche with a 4-0 victory Monday night.

Oilers coach Ron Low said his team was “counted out when we trailed, 3-1, in the series. Very few teams have done what they accomplished.”

The difference, he said, was Joseph. "In Game 5 Curtis Joseph became the real Curtis Joseph," Low said. “You could see it, and you could feel it."
May 17, 1998 - AP

Goaltending and defense, which carried the Dallas Stars all season,
carried them into the Western Conference finals Saturday night in a 2-1 victory over Edmonton at Dallas.

Ed Belfour stopped 17 shots behind brilliant defense. For the series,
Belfour stopped 119 of 123 shots.

"This was typical of how our teams have gone at it. The goaltenders
were dominant
, and it boiled down to the last five minutes," Star Coach Ken Hitchcock said.

Oiler goalie Curtis Joseph was almost Belfour's equal with 24 saves.
May 10, 1999 - Ken Campbell, Toronto Star:
As much as the Pittsburgh Penguins hated to see Mats Sundin get his groove back, they left the Air Canada Centre last night trying to figure out how to get Curtis Joseph out of his own groove.

The Penguins felt that, with the exception of a terrible first period, they dominated the game. But as Cujo has done time and time again this season, he thwarted any hopes the Penguins had of coming back from their two-goal deficit, particularly in the second period when he stopped 13 of 14 shots.

``If you compare tonight to Game 1, we had two or three times as many opportunities,'' said Penguins right winger Rob Brown. ``Joseph stood on his head and made some big saves and I thought he stole the game. You know that Joseph is like a (Dominik) Hasek or a Tommy (Barrasso). Some nights they're going to get hot and they're impossible to beat.''
May 21, 1999 - Kevin Allen, USA Today:
Dominik Hasek, Buffalo's hero of the moment, now has his own chicken wing sauce, which is only fitting. As the NHL's Stanley Cup playoffs reach the conference finals this weekend, the four surviving goaltenders are all hot -- not a medium or a mild in the bunch.

The Sabres' Hasek will be matched against the Toronto Maple Leafs' Curtis Joseph in the Eastern Conference final. Patrick Roy of the Colorado Avalanche meets Eddie Belfour of the Dallas Stars in the Western Conference final.

"Hasek and Joseph are the two best in the league," Sabres defenseman Darryl Shannon says. "Wait, let me take that back. Roy will have something to say about that, too."
May 22, 1999 - Damian Cox, Toronto Star:
If you had to pick a netminder for one game tonight for all the marbles, who would you pick?

For the purposes of this story, the May, 1999 menu of answers is restricted to three padded men. In alphabetical order, they are Dominik Hasek of the Buffalo Sabres, Curtis Joseph of the Maple Leafs and Patrick Roy of the Colorado Avalanche.

Sure, those three just happen to be members of this year's Final Four squads, which perhaps makes it convenient to use them as candidates for top goaltender in the world as we speak.

Last year, when Roy was out in the first round and Joseph in the second, the discussion might have been different. But it's hard to see a debate over which of Hasek, Chris Osgood, Olaf Kolzig or Ed Belfour is the world's best, and they were the final quartet last year.

New Jersey fans might scream that Martin Brodeur should be included in this discussion, although consecutive first-round exits fuelled partially by Brodeur's average play weakens that argument.

Byron Dafoe? Like Kolzig, essentially just getting started as part of the elite. Mike Richter? Not after missing the playoffs again. Nikolai Khabibulin? Skipped the Olympics and keeps losing in the first round.

Belfour? Puh-lease.

In fact, the only real missing puckstopper in an over-all career sense might be the once wonderful Grant Fuhr, who has been hobbled by injuries for years now and simply isn't what he once was.

Now if this was 1988 . . .

So like it or not, it's Hasek versus Joseph versus Roy.

You have to pick one for one game. Which one?

Right off the top, Joseph might seem a clear third and slightly out of place, for his career accomplishments obviously do not compare favourably with the other two men.

No Stanley Cup rings. No Vezinas. No first-team all-star berths. The lowest paid. The worst regular season and playoff winning percentage.

But see, all of those categories require assistance, and it could be argued that Joseph has never been in a position to win such individual or team awards.

Mostly, he's played with franchises that have given up a lot of shots, which tends to make it difficult for a goalie to register the superlative numbers required or to carry the club far in the post-season.

A year ago, you probably couldn't really make an argument to include him in this threesome. But in lifting the Leafs into the NHL's upper echelon this season after the club missed the playoffs last season, and in doing it with swagger and brilliance, he has padded a resume that previously included extraordinary first-round playoff performances for St. Louis and Edmonton.

Right now, it's hard to believe any goalie could play at a higher level than the Toronto netminder. Getting the Leafs into the Stanley Cup final, of course, would only add to the growing Joseph legend.
May 22, 1999 - Jeff Schulz, AJC:
The NHL playoffs are down to four teams. Maybe that should be, down to four goalies. The goaltender is the centerpiece of any hockey team, and this season the NHL is left with its most elite conference championships in years.

In the Western Conference finals that begin tonight, Colorado's Patrick Roy faces Ed Belfour of Dallas. Roy is the league's all-time leader in playoff wins. Belfour started for a team that allowed the fewest goals this season and earlier in the playoffs had a shutout string over seven periods.

In the Eastern Conference finals, Buffalo's Dominik Hasek opposes Toronto's Curtis Joseph. Last year, Hasek reaffirmed his status as the globe's best goalie after leading an undermanned Czech Republic team to the Olympic gold medal. Joseph, who signed with the Leafs as a free agent, is second only to Hasek with a playoff saves percentage of .930.
May 22, 1999 - Rachel Alexander, Washington Post
The Avalanche's Patrick Roy, the Sabres' Dominik Hasek,
the Stars' Ed Belfour and the Maple Leafs' Curtis Joseph rank among
the top five goaltenders in terms of victories over the past six
years. The other is Martin Brodeur, whose New Jersey Devils were
eliminated in the first round.

"It is no coincidence that the four best goalies in the
game are all in the [conference] finals right now," Colorado captain
Joe Sakic said. "That is what it takes to win championships and long
series is great goaltending, and all four teams have that.
The matchup between sharp-shooting Toronto captain Mats
Sundin and Buffalo captain Michael Peca, the best defensive forward in the game, is being eagerly anticipated, as well as the clash that
should come when the Maple Leafs' go-go offense meets the Sabres'
tight-checking defensive system. But the series' best duel may be
between Hasek and Joseph, two veterans looking for their first Stanley Cup rings.

Both will be as dangerous for the damage they can do to
their opponent's psyche as for their actual goaltending.
April 24, 2000 - Larry Wigge, Sporting News
* The story in the Toronto-Ottawa series is simple. Curtis Joseph is Curtis Joseph and Tom Barrasso isn't.
April 28, 2000 - Liz Robbins, New York Times:
The Toronto Maple Leafs are used to Curtis Joseph's magic act. They never get tired of watching him in goal and, after a performance like tonight's, they never tire of praising him.

''Curtis Joseph stood on his head tonight,'' Toronto's Wendel Clark said. ''He was the best player out there. He's the best goalie in the league and he proved that tonight.''

Entering the Eastern Conference semifinals, the Devils' and Maple Leafs' players narrowed in on the battle between the pipes, identifying it as the crucial game within the game.

Round 1 went to Joseph, whose Maple Leafs took a 2-1 victory as the goaltender stopped 32 shots to his Devils counterpart Martin Brodeur's 19.

Leafs Coach Pat Quinn said: ''We were outchanced and we still won. Usually, when that happens, your goalie makes the difference.''

Leafs center Darcy Tucker, who had the game-winning goal, off Clark's assist, said: ''You could talk about Cujo after every game. If it wasn't for him, we probably would be down, 1-0, by now. He's the best goaltender in the world in my opinion. He's proven it time and time again. We rely on him heavily.''
May 5, 2000 - Neil Stevens, Canadian Press
The Toronto Maple Leafs can be outhit, outshot and out just about everything, but they always have the chance to win because they have Curtis Joseph in goal.

Never has this indisputable fact been more apparent than in the second-round NHL playoff series with the New Jersey Devils, which is knotted at two wins each only because of Joseph.

Joseph has been everything the Leafs hoped for -- and more -- since they signed him to a free-agent deal July 15, 1998. He's making $6.15 million US this season. Only Colorado's Patrick Roy ($7.5 million) and Buffalo's Dominik Hasek ($7 million) make more. Joseph is a finalist for the Vezina Trophy as the league's top goaltender this season and the man nicknamed Cujo after an intimidating dog from an old motion picture is showing in this series why he deserves to win the coveted trophy.

"Thank God we have Cujo," said the Leafs' Tie Domi.

In the four games with the Devils, Toronto has been outshot 33-21, 33-20, 36-23 and 36-22 -- add it up and New Jersey is ahead 138-86 on the shots clock. Yet, the best-of-seven series is all even.

Made the difference

"Cujo made the difference again," Devils goalie Martin Brodeur said after the Leafs' 3-2 win in Game 4. "He's the reason why the series is 2-2."

Joseph habitually deflects praise.

"That's what you're there for," he said. "You're trying to make the big saves at big times."

The only thing he's been known to boast about is the size of the fish he catches. He'll proudly retell the story of landing a 25-pound striped bass last summer. Now he's landing Devils.

"An average game for him is a lot better than an average game for another goaltender," said Leafs captain Mats Sundin. "He makes the key saves at the right moments and motivates us.

"There is no doubt that he is the key to this team."

New Jersey defenceman Ken Daneyko insists he and his teammates never expected it to be an easy series, even when they so clearly outplayed the Leafs earlier in the week to temporarily grab a series lead.

"We just have to keep peppering Joseph," said Daneyko. "In the two wins they've had, Joseph has stood on his head. Now it's two out of three."

"This is a goaltenders' duel," said Domi. "We knew it would be from the start."

Joseph has a reputation as a money player. His lifetime goals-against average in the NHL playoffs is lower than his regular-season GAA.

So, after being written off by many after losing Game 3 by a 5-1 count, the Leafs remain very much alive because of Joseph.
April 12, 2001 - Canadian Press:
"Everybody has an opinion and that's probably one that's easy to make, for sure, because they beat us five times during the regular season and they're one of the top-flight hockey clubs in the league," Joseph said after practice Wednesday when asked about Ottawa being favoured to win the series by most of the critics. "It's easy to say we're the underdog."

Yet, his teammates know he can swing the series their way by himself. Ottawa could outshoot Toronto 45-15 Friday, but with Cujo in goal the Leafs always believe they have a chance to win. Patrick Lalime has had a good season for the Senators, but he doesn't have Joseph's playoff credentials -- nowhere close.

Joseph, who is earning $6.15 million US this season, is eager to get started, too, because this is his time of the year. Each spring for the last four years, he has taken a good goals-against average from the regular season and reduced it during the playoffs. His team has never been eliminated in the first round in those four years.
April 21, 2001 - Ken Campbell, Toronto Star:
Look around the NHL and find one team that has improved itself through unrestricted free agency in recent seasons more than the Leafs.

Led by goalie Curtis Joseph, perhaps the best free-agent acquisition ever, the Leafs have been among the league's busiest franchises and certainly the most productive organization after July 1.
April 27, 2001 - Jason Diamos, New York Times:
Joseph, who began his career in St. Louis before moving to Edmonton and then Toronto, has long been considered one of the N.H.L.'s elite goalies. Many view this series, a rematch of the conference semifinal won by the Devils last season, as the starting point of a competition between Joseph and the Devils' Martin Brodeur for the No. 1 goaltender job on the Canadian Olympic team in next year's Winter Games at Salt Lake City.
April 27, 2003 - Kara Yorio, Los Angeles Times:
Joseph did not lose the series. Sure, he misplayed a puck in Game 3 that resulted in a goal, but he did not lose games with poor play. Joseph's 2.08 goals-against average and .917 save percentage aren't bad stats, and teams should win with such a performance. Still, Joseph went to Detroit to win the Cup just as Dominik Hasek had the season before him. Hasek finished last season's playoffs with a 1.86 GAA and a .920 save percentage. The telling save percentages of the two aren't all that different, but Hasek finished the job and Joseph did not.

Devil goalie Martin Brodeur has won two Stanley Cups but also has lost a few series in the first round, including last year's to the Hurricanes. He knows how it feels to fail to meet expectations.

"Look at me last year; look at CuJo now," Brodeur says. "You can look at it and say the teams didn't score, but ... if you want to be the best, this is what you have to deal with. People look up to you to make that run."

The very best make the difference. Joseph wanted to be the guy. He left Toronto with a farewell speech about the Maple Leafs not being committed to winning and Detroit being the home of the best chance to win the 2003 Stanley Cup. Nothing less would do. Not for Joseph. Not for the Wings. Certainly not for Wing fans.

"He put himself in a position to fail, and that's really admirable," Hrudey says.

The team failed him. He ultimately failed the team. The criticism wouldn't be as bitter had he helped this team to the Cup finals and lost. That's disappointment, not disgrace. Instead, he's a first-round loser playing for a team with an unsettled future. Will Steve Yzerman play another season? What will happen with unrestricted free agents Sergei Fedorov, Darren McCarty and Igor Larionov? Will Luc Robitaille return? Whatever happens over the summer, it sure feels like the end of an era.

But Joseph will be there next season, still at the other side of the pointed finger, as well as in that middle ground among the NHL's all-time great goaltenders. He is one of the game's premier goalies, but can he be considered one of the rarified elite whose winning reputations remain for the ages? How much of a difference is there between the great ones who put up the numbers during the regular season and the ones who do that and win the Cup?

"There's a difference, but it's minimal," Hrudey says. "That's not to take anything away from the accomplishments of the guys who won. I'd never do that. But there are a number of truly great ones that haven't. If Hasek hadn't gone to Detroit, he wouldn't have won the Cup, and he'd probably still be recognized as one of the best to ever play."

Probably. But having won a Cup -- not to mention an Olympic gold medal (something Brodeur guided Canada to in 2002; Joseph was the backup) -- Hasek definitely will be remembered as one of the all-time greats.

Joseph, 35, is ninth in career wins. If he never wins a Stanley Cup, he will be remembered as one of the best of his time. But it'll take a second or two before his name is mentioned. People always start with the men who still were standing at the end before they think of the others.
April 22, 2004 - Kevin Allen, USA Today:
No one blamed Joseph solely for the Red Wings' defeat last summer, and he had reasonable playoff numbers. But he was probably victimized by a new measuring standard for goalies. In the 1950s and 1960s, goalies were measured simply by goals-against average. Then in the 1980s, save percentage became the rage. Now general managers talk about goalies making the right save at the right time. The only criticism directed against Joseph last spring was that he didn't save the Red Wings when everyone was struggling against the Mighty Ducks.

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