Coach’s Corner: Leafs losing because of ‘lousy’ goaltending

Don Cherry and Ron MacLean talk all things hockey, including Mark Scheifele finally coming through for the Winnipeg Jets, the real reason behind the losses of the Maple Leafs so far and much more.

“If they don’t start playing hockey you cannot win. I knew that with Hardy Astrom.”

When Cherry brings up the frustrating Swedish goalie from his coaching days with the Colorado Rockies, you know he’s hot.

On this Saturday’s edition of Coach’s Corner, Don Cherry sounded off on why the Leafs, despite exciting play from their youngsters, are still finding ways to lose games.

Toronto is in the top 10 in goals per game so far this season, but are still just 1-1-2, so Cherry singled out sub-par goaltending as the reason for the start.

“Their problem right now as far as I’m concerned is the goaltender,” Cherry said. “I know he was injured and everything. Now you know Reimer playing for the worst team in the league — 40 games — had the same save percentage as Andersen, and he played for the best defensive team. And they get rid of Reimer, who played for the worst and had the same thing.”

Last season, Reimer played 32 games for the Leafs and posted a .918 save percentage, a good mark for a team that was allowing 30.5 shots against per game, 10th-worst in the league. Andersen, meanwhile, played 43 games for the Anaheim Ducks and had a .919 save percentage for a team that allowed 27.5 shots against per game — the third-lowest mark in the league.

Reimer, of course, was traded to the San Jose Sharkes last season and signed with the Florida Panthers as a UFA for five years with a cap hit of $3.4 million. Andersen was acquired by the Leafs in a trade this summer and quickly signed to a five-year deal worth $5 million against the cap.

“The biggest mistake they ever made,” Cherry said. “It’s the problem with the Leafs right now, why they’re losing. I’ll come out and say it is that their goaltending is lousy.”

Andersen was injured just prior to the start of the World Cup, where he was supposed to suit up for Team Europe, but he was forced to miss the event. His start with the Leafs has definitely been shaky, with an .876 save percentage through his first three games. For context, Toronto has been allowing an average of 29 shots against this season, which is right in the middle of the league.

Ron MacLean asked Cherry if he blamed Maple Leafs GM Lou Lamoriello for this mis-step.

“Well he made the trade what do ya want? You think I’m scared? Lou knows it and I know it.”

Added Cherry: “I’ll tell you when they’ll pull out of it, when Andersen starts playing hockey. And Enroth. He’s gotta play better or they won’t play out of it. Let’s hope it’s the injury that did it. I hope so.”

The injury could very well be a factor in Andersen’s slow start, but prior to the start of Saturday’s game, Sportsnet analyst Kelly Hrudey had another explanation: Andersen’s “quirky” glove hand.

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