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Into the fire

It’s true, the current situation — which sees Justin Pogge jettisoned between the Buds and the Marlies — is unorthodox.

It’s true, the current situation — which sees Justin Pogge jettisoned between the Buds and the Marlies — is unorthodox.

But with the Leafs out of contention, this is the time to fool around for the future. In Tuesday’s loss to the Buffalo Sabres, Pogge was essentially beaten by NHL speed due to an AHL mindset. A quick turnover by John Mitchell in the defensive zone led to a speedy wrister by new Leaf-killer Drew Stafford. Maybe next year, Pogge makes the save.

Now the glass-half-full crowd will point out that Pogge settled down quite nicely after the first period, but that ignores the fact the score was already 3-0. With Ryan Miller playing excellent in net for Buffalo, there was no real need for the Sabres to keep pouring it on; they knew the Leafs would be hard-pressed to get one goal, let alone several.

The value in Pogge’s call-up this time around is in repetitions. Pogge will now face NHL-calibre shots in practices, as well as games. He will watch the habits of established veterans Vesa Toskala and Curtis Joseph.

Ironically, the defence Pogge has played for with the Marlies is just as porous and giving as their NHL big brothers, so he can’t expect things to get any easier now that he’s in The Show.

It’s not difficult to see the evolution of the Leafs’ rebuilding process in terms of netminders. Pogge is essentially getting looks at the expense of Joseph, a fan favourite who is nonetheless playing his last season in Toronto, if not the NHL.

A tandem of Toskala and Pogge, with Toskala playing, say, 60 of 82 games, sets the table for a 2010-11 season where Pogge takes his shot at No. 1. Unless the Leafs plan on parachuting in a veteran in the future, this is Pogge’s time to learn the ropes and begin his own legacy.

 
 
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