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Giguere recalls horror show of his early days

Jean-Sebastien Giguere can't figure out what all the fuss is about.

So Jonas Gustavsson has struggled in many of his recent starts. So he may be in a bit of a slump. It's still nothing, the veteran Leafs netminder says, compared to the trials and tribulations he went through in his early years.

"I couldn't stop anything," Giguere said after the Leafs morning skate in New York this afternoon. "It was like pathetic. I even went to see an eye doctor thinking I couldn't see well. I swear, I think the last 17 games I lost."

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That was in 2000, when Giguere was still with the Calgary Flames and playing on their AHL club in Saint John. A former first-round pick by the Whalers in 1995 (13th overall), Giguere was almost 23 years old but struggling in his fourth pro season to show the form that made him such a highly regarded prospect.

A couple months after his massive losing streak and trip to the optometrist, the Flames dealt him to Anaheim for a second-round pick, and after working with Ducks goaltending coach Francois Allaire, Giguere emerged in his mid-20s as one of the best goalies in the league.

He said he doesn't see any issues with how Gustavsson is playing now with the Leafs, as all goaltenders take time to find their form.

"I think he'll be fine," Giguere said. "He's worked hard. Too much is made out of all of it. He won his last game [in a 6-5 shootout against St. Louis]. Yeah, it wasn't pretty, but he still won. That's all you care about. Wins versus losses. That's the most important stat.

"I think this year he's played unbelievable. If you take the first two months, he was on fire. So many games, we didn't even score. He played a lot of the back-to-back, on the road, in Washington, and the tough games, so he's played well. I'm not even worried about him."

As for that eye test all those years ago, Giguere said he passed.

"He said you're fine," Giguere said. "Go play. But I swear so many shots from the red line [were going in]. My Dad came one weekend and he's like 'what are you doing?' I'm like 'I don't know.' ... I wasn't going anywhere at that point [when I was traded]. It was a good change for me, no doubt. I won my first six games in Cincinnati and it was like oh I'm back."

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From there, of course, he went onto great success in Anaheim, including two trips to the finals.

Gustavsson will start tonight against the Rangers to allow Giguere to face his former Ducks teammates tomorrow back in Toronto. You can tell he's already really looking forward to that one.

Ron Wilson on Gustavsson

"I thought he played really well last year, especially at the end. This year, it seems we weren't playing well in front of him, he played excellent I think probably in November. We weren't playing very well so he didn't get any wins. Big thing with goalies is seeing a 'W' beside your name after the game; they don't care if they give up five or one, they want a 'W' and he wasn't getting those and I think he's pressed a little bit. And it's caused him to lose a little bit of confidence.

"Unfortunately for him the last four or five starts he's looked nervous in third periods. You can tell if a goalie's nervous by how he's handling the puck and giving up rebounds and that's the most important thing and he's struggled there. Again, he's had the last couple weeks to work on practice with Francois [Allaire] so therefore I expect him to have a good game."


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This is the fourth and final meeting between the Leafs and Rangers this season as the two teams faced one another three times in October, with New York winning two low scoring games in Toronto and losing the one home meeting in overtime on a goal by Phil Kessel.

Leafs defenceman Luke Schenn provided the scouting report on what to expect from the Rangers tonight:

"Gaborik's obviously a really dangerous player and they've got Wolski, Drury, the list goes on. They've got a lot of skill up front and some pretty good players on the back end as well.

"They're a pretty sound defensive team [sixth in NHL in goals against] and one of the hardest working because of the coach they play for with [John] Tortorella. They work hard and they're committed defensively. They block a lot of shots, too [fourth in NHL in blocked shots]. That's one of the best things about their game and we've seen that already a few times this year playing against them how many shots they block. We're going to have to get our heads up and try to get them through."


For the Leafs, Mike Brown is out with a suspension, Brett Lebda is a healthy scratch and Fredrik Sjostrom is back in Toronto recovering from a charley horse to his thigh that he's been playing with the past two weeks. Nikolai Kulemin has been fighting some sort of illness but will play. He and linemate Mikhail Grabovski missed the morning skate.

Brown said the game he's the most upset to miss is against the Ducks, who he played with for a season and a half before being dealt to the Leafs.

Leafs lineup

MacArthur - Grabovski - Kulemin Crabb - Bozak - Kessel Armstrong - Boyce - Versteeg Mueller - Brent - Orr

Beauchemin - Phaneuf Kaberle - Schenn Gunnarsson - Komisarek


Rangers lineup (based on last game)

Fedotenko - Anisimov - Gaborik Wolski - Stepan - Zuccarello Boyle - Dubinsky - Prust Avery - Drury - Newbury

Girardi - Staal Eminger - Sauer Gilroy - McDonagh


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About the Author
Hockey Reporter

James joined The Globe as an editor and reporter in the sports department in 2005 and now covers the NHL and the Toronto Maple Leafs. More

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