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Leafs goalie guru Allaire preaches patience

In a rare move, the Toronto Maple Leafs goalie coach, Francois Allaire, met with the media for 10 minutes after practice on Wednesday.

And his message was, above all, that sometimes goalies take time to get to their potential.

"We've got two young kids in the net," Allaire said. "Not a lot of experience. Nobody has more than 90 games in the NHL. So that's normal and we're right in the middle of [the playoff race].

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"We'll see if we're strong enough to get through."

Of late, that hasn't looked to be the case. The latest example came on Tuesday night in a 4-3 overtime loss to the New Jersey Devils in which Jonas Gustavsson allowed three questionable goals, including a truly awful winner 1:18 into the extra frame.

The Leafs goaltenders have now allowed 29 goals in their last seven games, a stretch over which they have won just once and slipped right to the edge of eighth place in the Eastern Conference.

Toronto's netminders had a meeting with the coaching staff before practice on Wednesday, something Allaire said was nothing but positive with what he called "the youngest tandem in the league."

"We have to be positive," Allaire said. "We have to ask them to keep going, working, no matter what. And the guys are responding pretty well. I don't have any issue with the way they work, the way they try, but it's not always easy for a kid who doesn't have a lot of experience in the league to say 'I have to go three or four games in a row.' "

In addition to Gustavsson and James Reimer, Allaire has also received criticism from some corners for a lack of improvement from the team's goalies.

For his part, the respected goalie guru pointed to both goalie's recent injuries as part of what's slowed their development.

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"A concussion is something you don't have usually for a goalie," Allaire said of Reimer's head injury early in the season. "It's the first time I've dealt with that in 28 years. I've never had one of my goalies who got a concussion. It's too bad because that broke the momentum that we have been building during training camp and the beginning of the season.

"But that's part of the sport. We have to deal with that. When you come back from that kind of injury, sometimes it's a little bit tougher."

As for how he evaluates the pair's performance over the season as a whole, Allaire admitted there's room for improvement.

"We've been through different periods where we were really good and some periods where we've been not that good," he said. "We have to find a way to be a little bit more consistent and that's what we're working on right now.

"Just to be persistent. Keep going. We're still in the playoffs, we've got 22 games to play and it's in our hands, basically.

"No matter what happened last night, we're still in eighth place," Allaire added.

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The only question is how long that lasts if his goalies can't turn things around.

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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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