Porous Pogge pulled

Justin Pogge reacts to the 5th goal against in the second period of action between the Toronto...

Justin Pogge reacts to the 5th goal against in the second period of action between the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Boston Bruins at the Air Canada Centre March 28th, 2009. (Dave Abel/ Sun Media)

STEVE BUFFERY, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:13 AM ET

A few days ago, Maple Leafs GM Brian Burke groused that goaltender Justin Pogge didn't really deserve a promotion back up to the Maple Leafs from the Toronto Marlies.

But with regular starter Martin Gerber staring at a three-game suspension for bumping a referee on March 24 against the Washington Capitals, the organization didn't have much of a choice.

Well, one thing is now crystal clear. Pogge is not an NHL-calibre goaltender. At least not yet.

And given that the Fort McMurray, Alta., native turns 23 next month and hasn't really starred at the American League level this season, it's beginning to look like the Leafs' so-called goaltender of the future is anything but that.

Last night against the Eastern Conference-leading Boston Bruins, Pogge allowed six goals on 20 shots before being pulled for Curtis Joseph in the second period, as the Leafs lost 7-5, their second straight defeat in as many nights.

After Shawn Thornton scored at 11:30 of the second to put Boston up 5-4, Leafs coach Ron Wilson called a time out and reamed out his players, paying particular attention to Pogge.

"I wanted to know if he wanted to continue," Wilson said, adding he advised Pogge to battle harder. "(Pogge's) got to learn and he's got to grow up and mature and be ready. He wasn't quite as ready as he needed to be (last night)."

Not all of the goals were Pogge's fault. Three of the six were deflected, as the Leafs defencemen were too soft on the Boston forwards in front of their net. A fourth came as the result of the young goaltender being tripped.

Still, Pogge demonstrated some major flaws, specifically a tendency to go down too early and play too deep.

"When he gets rattled a little bit, he gets deep in the net and makes himself small," Wilson said. "You go to a safe place. But John Tortorella coined it, 'Safe is death in this league.' When you try to play it safe, you get burned."

Not to say that Pogge has no future in the NHL. But time is running out on the former Canadian junior team star, who fell to 1-4-1 on the season with the Leafs. Now there are questions about his confidence, although Pogge insisted that Burke's statements did not bother him.

"You can't focus on that. They're trying to help you," he said. "You have to go back to the basics I guess. (Last night) I sucked, but I'll go back tomorrow and work on it and get better."

Boston goaltender Tim Thomas made 33 saves on 38 shots in a game that was physical and chippy, featuring a pair of fights and numerous scrums.

FIGHT NIGHT

Rookie defencemen Phil Oreskovic and Luke Schenn fought for the Leafs, Schenn's second fight in as many nights, both being knockouts.

Last night's defeat spoiled another spectacular Saturday night for Alexei Ponikarovsky and the all-Russian speaking line of Ponikarovsky-Mikhail Grabovski and Nikolai Kulemin. Ponikarovsky picked up two goals and an assist after recording back-to-back four-point nights the previous two Saturdays.

He has 23 goals on the season, surpassing his former season high by two.

Grabovski had two assists, Kulemin contributed with a goal and John Mitchell had a goal and an assist.

Winger Niklas Hagman also scored in his first game back after missing the previous 13 with a concussion -- the 100th goal of his NHL career and 20th of the season.

Defencemen Matt Hunwick and Dennis Wideman both had three assists for Boston while veteran forward Mark Recchi had two goals.

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REPLAY

ON THE MEND

All-star defenceman Tomas Kaberle missed his 12th straight game last night because of a broken right hand, though he did take part in the morning skate. Making an appearance at the ACC was goaltender Vesa Toskala, who underwent hip surgery two weeks ago.

BATTLE ROYALE

Rookie defenceman Phil Oreskovic took on Boston bruiser Milan Lucic in a heavyweight tilt after the Bruins jumped ahead 6-4 in the second period in an effort to change the momentum of the game. Alas, the Bruins scored on the next shift to go up by three.

SCORES BIG

Tracey Rizzi from Binbrook, Ont., from won a Ford F-150 truck last night during a promotion after the second period.

POINT-GETTERS

Toronto G A P

Alexei Ponikarovsky 2 1 3

John Mitchell 1 1 2

Jason Blake 0 2 2

Mikhail Grabovski 0 2 2

Niklas Hagman 1 0 0

Nikolai Kulemin 0 1 1

Jeff Finger 0 1 1

Phil Oreskovic 0 1 1

Ian White 0 1 1

Boston G A P

Matt Hunwick 0 3 3

Dennis Wideman 0 3 3

Mark Recchi 2 0 2

Michael Ryder 1 1 2

David Krejci 1 1 2

Milan Kucic 0 2 2

Marc Savard 0 2 2

Chuck Kobasew 1 0 1

Shawn Thornton 1 0 1

Blake Wheeler 1 0 1

Mark Stuart 0 1 1

P.J. Axelsson 0 1 0

NEXT UP

Wednesday -- 7:30 p.m.; Maple Leafs vs. Philadelphia Flyers; TSN, AM 640


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