When Pogge made his Maple Leaf debut in the 2007 pre-season, I had butterflies. It's been up and down ever since. I recently got to interview him, witnessed a Marlies crowd turn on him, until he finally got pulled, and on March 29 I declared him "not ready for prime time".
Then, when I least expected it, he started to stop the puck. I've been in the building for quite a few Marlies games lately, and those soft goals have evaporated. The shaky Justin Pogge who always made me nervous seems to have stabilized and transformed into a formidable netminder who now invokes confidence. I had the best seat in the house this afternoon and witnessed his excellence as we beat Manitoba 2-1 and took a 2-1 series lead.
The Moose peppered Pogge with 31 shots and J.P. was awesome. He denied Manitoba's Michael Grabner on a pair of breakaways in the second period and was perfect during six Moose powerplays. With the game on the line, you knew Pogge was done allowing soft goals. He's a different guy out there, complete with required swagger.
He's a phriggin' phoenix. Just when I thought he was done, he's come back to life.