Jean-Sebastien Giguere doesn't have to be a superhero.
He doesn't need a phone booth to slip on the Superman cape and save the Toronto Maple Leafs.
All he has to do is a) stop the puck; and b) mentor starter-in-waiting Jonas Gustavsson.
He did a lot of the former on Thursday night -- and still ended up looking like a superhero in the process.
After suffering through years of mediocrity in net, Toronto fans had good reason to cheer Giguere's late-game heroics in the Leafs' 3-2 win over the Montreal Canadiens in their season opener.
"Giggy" made some huge saves in the dying seconds when the Habs came oh-so-close to tying the game (see the video evidence below). Where previous goalies may have faltered (here's looking at you, Vesa Toskala), Giguere stepped up to the challenge and looked every bit like the goalie who won a Stanley Cup in Anaheim.
The most recent love-in in Leafland should come as no surprise. Fans have been desperate for a solid netminder to cheer for ever since the halcyon days of Curtis Joseph and Ed Belfour. Fans are giddy simply because for the first time in years, they, and more important Giguere's teammates, have confidence in the so-called last line of defence.
Let's face it. The cliche, "You are only as good as your goaltending," rings true in Toronto as it does for every other NHL team. And for the past several seasons, the Leafs were a living testament to that.
It took all of one game last season for the Leafs to realize that former No. 1 goalie Vesa Toskala's best days were way behind him.
But check the tapes from two seasons ago and you can see how Toskala was beginning to lose it then.
His teammates never gave him an outright vote of non-confidence, but it seemed obvious they had no faith in their man in net.
And when that happens, everything begins to crumble.
The defensive corps and forwards played a different game, all in an effort to make up for their lousy goaltending. And whatever game plan coach Ron Wilson had in place was tossed out the window.
That's how shoddy goaltending invades a dressing room and makes for brain cramps on the ice.
General manager Brian Burke didn't have to be whacked across the head to realize this. In acquiring Giguere, a Conn Smythe Trophy winner in 2003 and a Stanley Cup champion in 2007, he knew he was getting a major upgrade in net.
Wilson is obviously happy with what he saw in the season opener. All he had to do was think back to Toskala's play 12 months ago, and the resulting Leafs swoon, and the difference was already evident.
"He played really well," Wilson told reporters after the game. "He focuses and battles for every shot. Looking at the game, this is probably one that last year we'd get tied against in the last minute. Because of a couple of great saves, we ended up preserving the win."
Besides giving his teammates confidence, Giguere is also buying time for Gustavsson to work on becoming the Leafs eventual No. 1 netminder.
Gustavsson's reputation preceded him in Toronto. His spectacular playoff run in Sweden two years ago was well-known by the time he stepped off the plane.
Gustavsson, however, had a number of setbacks in his first season, including a scary heart issue that was resolved through surgery. Add to that the added pressure of being thrust into the starting role after Toskala went south and he never really found his rhythm.
Plan B for Giguere is to work with Gustavsson, help him understand the grind of the 82-game schedule and the pressure of playing in hockey's largest media market.
Giguere has the temperment to handle the assignment. He's handled his share of adversity on and off the ice.
"I don't think they're asking us to be spectacular," said Giguere after the win over the Canadiens.
No, they just want him to be consistent, which is new ground for the Leafs in goal at this time of the season.