As soon as the puck bounced past Vesa Toskala on Tuesday night, goalies past and present felt the Toronto netminder’s pain.
“I almost threw up when I saw it last night,” former NHL goalie Kay Whitmore told The Canadian Press on Wednesday. “You get that terrible feeling in the pit of your stomach. You feel bad for the guy because you know you’ve been there and how bad it feels.”
The Maple Leafs won the game but the hockey world was still abuzz Wednesday after Toskala was victimized by a 178-foot bouncer from New York Islanders defenceman Rob Davison – ironically his former teammate in San Jose.
“That’s happened to all of us,” said former star goalie Kelly Hrudey, now an analyst on Hockey Night In Canada. “Everybody that saw the goal last night knows that it was a crazy hop and there’s not a lot you can do. You can try and be as big as possible but if the combination of a puck bouncing like that and sometimes poor ice – the potential always exists.
The key thing now is for Toskala to put it behind him, says Hrudey.
“I’m sure he had a really good laugh with his teammates in the locker-room between periods over that goal,” said Hrudey.
Toskala recovered brilliantly – shutting the door in a 3-1 comeback win for his team.
“That was huge for him,” said Whitmore, who now works as the NHL’s goalie equipment consultant. “If they had lost 1-0, that may not go away soon. But they win the game so you can sit back and laugh about it. And you see the way he is in general, he’s a pretty laid-back guy. I think that helps in the way he plays goal. A lot of the Finnish goaltenders are like that – they have the perfect mentality. Just play the next shot.
“Some guys you wonder if that might affect them down the road, but as soon as that happened last night I just thought about how he is and figured he’s shrug it off pretty quickly and that seems to be what happened.”
Toskala appeared to be taking the fluke goal lightly.
“It just took a bad bounce right in front of me,” Toskala said told reporters. “Things like that happen.”
Yes they do. Former New York Rangers star goalie John Davidson says the Toskala goal took him back to a night in Buffalo.
“Jerry Korab wristed the puck down from the other side of centre ice, it was going about one mile an hour along the ice – it never even bounced – I lifted my head as the puck was about to hit my stick. It hit the heel of my stick, went through my legs and hit the far post and went in. There’s no hole to climb in to hide after one like that,” Davidson recalled. “Mine was worse really because it didn’t even bounce unlike Toskala.”
Flames goalie Miikka Kiprusoff hadn’t seen the goal as of Wednesday afternoon’s skate in Calgary but after hearing about it was anxious to get a look at his fellow Finn’s embarrassing moment.
“I have to go home and check those highlights,” Kiprusoff said. “I heard it was a funny goal and I guess it was Rob Davison, his old teammate, who scored it so I definitely want to see it.”
As Hrudey pointed out, the key is how a goalie recovers after one of those and Davidson says he reacted well.
“It was a high-scoring game and I wasn’t very good,” recalled Davidson, now president of the St. Louis Blues. “But they kept me in there and that goal woke me up. I got in the zone and ended up playing well after that. But boy that was a terrible goal and I was awfully embarrassed.”
Whitmore was also victimized when he played in Hartford in the early 1990s. He was beat by Boston defenceman Ray Bourque, who scored from the top of the faceoff circle in the Bruins end.
“It was a two-hopper,” Whitmore recalled. “It was towards the end of the second period and it tied the game. It was a pretty bad feeling. I remember seeing it on one of those Rock’em Sock’em videos.”
And Whitmore admits he had a tough time moving on from that one. Hartford lost that game and he says he didn’t play for 10 games after the incident. Whalers coach Jimmy Roberts wasn’t very happy with his blunder.
“I kind of sweated that out for about a month before I got back in there,” said Whitmore. “It was tough to let go of that one, that’s for sure.”
Hrudey can’t forget his moment either. It was early in his career when Patrick Sundstrom of the Vancouver Canucks flipped a puck from inside his own zone.
“If I’m not mistaken it’s one of those stories where he was in a line change and sitting on the bench when the goal went in,” chuckled Hrudey. “It was bouncing like crazy and whether I misplayed it or misjudged it, it went in. It was up to me to recover.”
Hrudey says the Canucks kept hoping they’d trip him up again.
“It was funny because after that there were a bunch of times when Vancouver was still shooting from far hoping they were going to get another lucky break,” he said. “I can’t say this for sure, but I’m not convinced I ever let in another like that the rest of my career. But it’s inevitable for most guys.”
It’s not a goal Flames winger Craig Conroy would give back.
“I’ll take one of those,” Conroy said. “Those long ones go in now and again.”