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TORONTO - It was very early in the Maple Leafs tenure of Jonathan Bernier and he had noticed that his new goaltending coach, Rick St. Dikembe Mutombo Jersey . Croix, was lingering quietly in the background, doing his best to thoughtfully calibrate an assessment without much interference. "At one point, I told him Rick, You need to tell me things that you see that Im doing wrong," Bernier recalled in conversation with the Leaf Report. "Some goalies dont like to get judged or anything like that, but I like to know where Im at in my game. I like when the goalie coach will push me to get better." No single aspect of the Leafs season at the midway point has been quite as reliable, and at times brilliant, as that of the goaltending. And the quiet, driving and highly influential presence behind the recently found success is the 58-year-old St. Croix, now in his second season with the team. Between Bernier and 25-year-old James Reimer, the Toronto tandem ranks fourth in the NHL with a .924 save percentage - after finishing seventh-best last season - and third-best with an even stingier .942 mark at even-strength - of critical importance considering the bloated number of shots the team has allowed this season. Years of futility, which plagued the Leafs crease following the departure of Ed Belfour (see table below), are finally being forgotten under St. Croix, who captured a Stanley Cup with Belfour in Dallas in 1999 and found later success with the Vancouver and Winnipeg organizations. "He really understands the position because he played it," Reimer told the Leaf Report of St. Croix, who played in the NHL with the Leafs and Flyers, "and thats really valuable." The goalie coach is equal parts teacher, motivator and therapist, a sounding board for the games most solitary position, a leaning post in times of turmoil and success. "A goalie coach is a resource to help the goaltender in his area of need and it might be off the ice, it might be on the ice, it might be just going post to post, it might be how he reads the game, maybe its stuff related to flexibility," said St. Croix, shortly after he replaced Francois Allaire as the teams goaltending coach in the fall of 2012. "Im a resource to help them become a better version of themselves." He has found quick success in that regard where his predecessor could not. Dubbed at one point by former Leafs President and GM Brian Burke as "the best goaltending coach on the planet," Allaire, who owns two Stanley Cup rings, never found much success during his three years in Toronto. His rigid style of goaltending - a blocking approach that was highly successful in the slower pre-lockout era - rarely translated into fewer goals against with the Leafs. It also allowed for little in the way of creativity or athleticism. [Allaire is currently working as the goaltending coach for the Avalanche, where has rediscovered considerable early success with Semyon Varlamov and former Leaf Jean-Sebastien Giguere.] St. Croix, in definite contrast, employs a considerably more accommodating approach to the position, a hybrid style that is dependent on accentuating the strengths of the individual. "I think with his style of coaching maybe theres more flexibility in there, a little less rigidity," said Reimer, an Allaire loyalist who is careful not to compare the two coaches. "You can play around with stuff a little bit more maybe [under St. Croix]. Maybe it allows you to be a little bit more athletic." "Its all your style of play and hell see your game and see those little things that will affect your game and itll be different than what he might tell Bernier in essence." Bernier, who worked with the highly lauded Bill Ranford previously in Los Angeles, agrees that St. Croix is "pretty open on techniques" and will advise, rather than demand, his goaltender on potential tweaks for game situations. "He wont change my style, wont change my position - thats who I am," said Bernier, whose .938 even-strength save percentage ranks behind only Ben Bishop among regular NHL starters this season. Unlike Allaire, who could be unyielding in his approach to goaltending, St. Croix is intent on molding the shape of the individual to a better version of itself. Reimer, who finished eighth in the NHL in save percentage last season, his first with St. Croix, and sits 12th this season, concedes that his goalie coach has "just allowed whatever it is that makes me good to rise to the top per se". "Its like a skilled player being able to make a few mistakes," Reimer explained of the increased flexibility being afforded under St. Croix, who was not made available to be interviewed for this story. "If you tell him as soon as he gets across the red line that he has to dump the puck youre going to take away a bit of his [talent]. He might be a solid player and he might still be great, but when you allow [him] to cut back or toe-drag every now and again then something [special] comes out. With Ricky, I think maybe thats what its allowed me to do." Goaltender and goalie coach meet after every game to review that nights work, determined to assess the good and bad on video. St. Croix, in such situations, is looking not just at the individual goals allowed but at the bigger picture, intent on finding tendencies and trends that may need strengthening. "If you let in a goal here," Reimer said, "you look at it and say, Was it a freak thing? Did you do something wrong? And if it was, is it because we havent practiced it or is just because you made a mistake? Either way you work on it." Prior to games, he and the two goaltenders will assess the incoming opponent, trying to better understand how they generate offence and what situations may be on deck that night. In addition to the teaching and advisement is the equally important role of motivator and therapist. "Its funny that you say that because I think thats the biggest thing for a goalie coach," said Bernier. "Hes almost a therapist in a way just because hes there for you mentally and keeps you positive. You dont want to be too high or too low and hes there to help you find that right level of emotion." Bernier needed such a pick-me-up from St. Croix earlier in the year, the losses piling up in rapid succession for the Leafs despite continued performance in goal. And because he has a history of playing the position at the NHL level, St. Croix carries a certain credibility for his two young netminders, an understanding of the often solitary life in goal. "You can say stuff to him because hell understand," said Reimer, "whereas if you said it to somebody else [they] would be saying Oh my goodness, youre thinking that? but in the goalie world thats just normal." A big believer in the role of a goaltending coach, Bernier actually approached Leafs VP of Hockey Operations, Dave Poulin, early in the season and requested that St. Croix be with the NHL club more often. "I think its important as a goalie to have a goalie coach," Bernier said, "and talk to someone about [goaltending], bring your confidence up. He helps you to get that routine in your game and in practice which is really good. "Hes been really good mentally to keep me positive … And working on little things he sees in my game. I think more and more were going to get adjusted to each other, more comfortable. I think were making a big step." A look at the considerable leap in Toronto goaltending under St. Croix in the past two seasons. Season Save Percentage 2013-14 .924 2013 .917 2011-12 .901 2010-11 .907 2009-10 .896 2008-09 .887 2007-08 .897 Gary Harris Jersey . The Oilers will try to get back in the win column on Monday when they continue a four-game road trip with a battle against the Buffalo Sabres. Edmonton won its third straight game last Wednesday against visiting San Jose, beating the Sharks 3-0 as Scrivens stopped 59 shots to set an NHL record for saves in a regular-season shutout. Custom Denver Nuggets Jerseys . PETERSBURG, Fla. http://www.authenticnuggetsproshop.com/Jameer-Nelson-Jersey/ . City has reached new heights under manager Manuel Pellegrini as they transition from big spending/immediate impact to perennial contender. Yaya Toures seeming discontent Tuesday may complicate that, as does the little issue of Financial Fair Play.Malelane, South Africa (SportsNetwork.com) - Branden Grace closed with a 4- under 68 on Sunday and he cruised to a 7-stroke win at the Alfred Dunhill Championship. Grace, who led by one entering the final round, ended at 20-under-par 268. This was his fifth European Tour title. His first four victories all came in the 2012 season. Its been a long year, a hard year, but now its a fairytale ending just before Christmas, said Grace. One of the main things this week has been the driving. I just put a new driver in the bag in Dubai and thats been the key this week. Former Open Championship winner Louis Oosthuizen carded a 3-under 69 and he took second place at minus-13 at Leopard Creek Country Club. Andrew Johnston tripped to a 1-over 73 in the final round. He ended alone in third place at 11-under 277. Trevor Fisher, Jr. (69) and last weeks winner Danny Willett (76) shared fourth at minus-10. David Drysdale posted a 3-under 69 to improve into a tie for sixth place. He was joined there by Francesco Molinari, who struggled to a 4-over 76. Grace rolled in a short birdie putt on the second to quickly extend his lead to three strokes. Another birdie at No. 4 moved Grace to minus-18. After a pair of pars, Grace missed the green at the par-3 seventh with his tee shot and he failed to get up and down for par. Despite the bogey, he still led by four. Grace chipped his second at the short par-4 11th to kick-in range. He made that birdie, but was just three clear of Willett, who birdied nine and 10. Willett dropped a shot at 12, but came right back with birdies at 13 and 14 to iinch within two, but Grace answered with a birdie on 13 to move three clear. Carmelo Anthony Jersey. Grace traded a birdie for a bogey from the 15th, but he was comfortably ahead as Willett collapsed down the stretch. Grace 2-putted for birdie at the last to seal the win. Its a little extra special being the first to win both Dunhills. Thats something for the record books, said Grace, who won the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship in 2012. It is a great finish to an amazing week. Willett found water at the par-3 16th and that led to a double-bogey. He followed with a bogey on 17 and a triple-bogey at the last. Oosthuizen, the 2006 runner-up, birdied the first, but followed with bogeys on the second and third. He got back to even-par for his round with a birdie on the seventh. Around the turn, he carded birdies at 10 and 11 to get to 12-under. Oosthuizen picked up two more strokes as he birdied the 15th and 17th, but he closed with a bogey at the last. NOTES: Grace earned 237,750 euros for the win ... Grace was the first player in tournament history to win this title in wire-to-wire fashion ... Despite good playing conditions, only 23 of the 75 players in the field broke par in the final round, while 44 players shot over-par rounds, including four rounds in the 80s ... Lucas Bjerregaard, who played in the final group, struggled to a 17-over 89, which included seven bogeys, two double-bogeys, a triple-bogey and a quadruple-bogey ... The European Tour returns to action on January 8th with the South African Open Championship, where Morten Orum Madsen is the reigning champion. Cheap NFL Jerseys Wholesale Jerseys Wholesale NFL Jerseys Jerseys From China Wholesale NFL Jerseys Cheap NFL Jerseys Cheap Jerseys ' ' '