If you’re over the age of 25, you probably best remember Toronto Maple Leafs alumnus Curtis Joseph as the Leafs star netminder from 1998-2002 who saw the team through a handful of deep playoff runs, and four consecutive seasons as a Vezina trophy nominee.
If you’re any younger, however, your memories of Curtis Joseph as a Toronto Maple Leaf are likely limited to his appearances at fan events as a retiree and, potentially, a few scattered memories of his brief and largely unremarkable second stint in Toronto in 2008-09 as a 41-year old in the twilight days of his career.
Chances are, if you haven’t completely blocked out those years from 2008-2015, you may have a little residual memory of this moment in Leafs history:
What a fun little trip down memory lane!
That’s right, kids – Martin Gerber was once a Toronto Maple Leaf, for all of 12 games. Spoiler: he wasn’t good. But that’s a story for another time.
After Gerber was ejected from the game for shoving an official while contesting a questionable call on Brooks Laich’s tying goal for the Caps, 41-year old Curtis Joseph entered into the game in with just 56 seconds to go in the third period.
Joseph quickly wowed the crowd, stopping an Alex Ovechkin one-timer point-blank with just 16 seconds to go in the third.
Onto overtime we go.
Right out of the gate, Cujo stifles Mike Green’s attempt to win it 36 seconds into overtime. And another again, a minute and a half later (side note: Mike Green used to be really good. This was in the middle of a 31-goal, 73-point season that saw him come second in Norris Trophy voting).
A few more minutes go by. With 25 seconds to go, Joseph once again proves he’s not had his final say as an NHL goaltender, stopping back-to-back shots from Green and Ovechkin to keep things even.
The clock ticks down. Joseph holds the fort. The ACC is loud and on their feet – at the tail end of a 34–35–13 season that would see the Leafs last in their division and 12th in the east, no less.
Onto the shootout.
Leafs legend Jeff Hamilton scores to give the Leafs the advantage.
Up first for the Caps? 21-year old Niklas Backstrom. Stopped by Joseph.
Next up, a then-good Alex Semin misses the net.
Last but not least, it’s 23 year old Alexander Ovechkin – in the midst of a 56 goal, 110 point campaign – against Curtis Joseph. The old guard versus the new, with the game on the line.
To seal the deal on this relief effort, Curtis Joseph revived the dying art of the poke-check one last time to stop the unstoppable Alexander Ovechkin, and the Leafs won the damn game.
There are moments, even in lost and forgotten seasons, that write themselves about as poetically as you could ever envision. This is one of them. I don’t remember very many good things about the 2008-09 Toronto Maple Leafs, because frankly, there weren’t many.
But I remember this. And I thought you should, too.