By Mike Zeisberger
TORONTO — Joel Quenneville has a simple explanation as to why his Chicago Blackhawks acquired goalie Jason LaBarbera from the Edmonton Oilers on Saturday.
"Depth and experience," the Hawks coach said.
Short and sweet.
Of course, if the man known as Coach Q required evidence to back his claim, he need only show the game film of the Hawks 7-3 thumping at the hands of the Maple Leafs at the Air Canada Centre on Saturday night.
Let's be honest here. LaBarbera is more journeyman than goaltending savior.
Having said that, his veteran presence is arriving in Chicago at just the right time, given the issues the Blackhawks young tandem of Antti Raanta and Kent Simpson experienced in the one-sided loss to Toronto.
On the day the Hawks brought in LaBarbera for future considerations, Raanta and Simpson experienced a nightmare, combining to allow seven goals on Toronto’s first 28 shots.
With Corey Crawford and Nikolai Khabibulin both sidelined with injuries, Quenneville gave Raanta the hook after he was beaten five times on 25 shots in the first 40 minutes of play.
Making his NHL debut, Simpson came in to start the third and immediately struggled, allowing the first NHL shot he faced to somehow squeeze through him just 28 seconds into the period. After stopping the next shot fired at him, he was then beaten by Phil Kessel.
Things were so bad for Simpson, he was given the Bronx cheer by the capacity crowd at the Air Canada Centre after he touched the puck midway through the period.
The seven goals allowed equaled a dubious season high for the Hawks, who were thumped, 7-2, in Nashville by the Predators back on Nov. 16.
Asked afterward about the Hawks motives for swapping for LaBarbera, Raanta simply shrugged his shoulders.
"I have no idea," he said. "It's not my job to think about those types of things.
"The more goalies, the more competition, I guess. All I know is that I have to do my best and get my (good) feeling back."
As for the loss on Saturday, trust us: No one saw this one coming.
After all, the Hawks had come into the game on a three-game winning streak, outscoring the opposition 19-6 in that span. The Leafs, on the other hand, were on a three-game losing skid, including a 6-3 humiliation at the hands of the St. Louis Blues on Thursday.
Peter Holland and Joffrey Lupul had two goals apiece for Toronto, with Phil Kessel, Jerry D’Amigo and Nik Kulemin adding singles.
Patrick Kane scored twice for the Hawks, upping his season total to 19. Brandon Saad had the other Hawks goal.
The turning point in the game came when Marian Hossa appeared to tie the score, 2-2, fewer than five minutes into the second period when he batted a puck with his glove that deflected in off the stick of Leafs captain Dion Phaneuf. The goal was correctly waved off because of the following rule:
According to rule 67.6 “A goal cannot be scored by an attacking player who bats or directs the puck and it is deflected into the net off any player, goalkeeper or official.”
On this night, it was just another thing that went against the Hawks.