Consequently, Edwards looks very little like a six-by-four when he plays. He is small (5'9", 157 pounds) and active in the manner of a Rogatien Vachon, challenging shooters, cutting down angles, dropping into his butterfly. His style reminds Imlach of Roger Crozier, whose autobiography, Daredevil Goalie, is the only book Edwards has ever read cover to cover (he did so three times). Like Glenn Hall, Crozier is remembered as much for his weak stomach as for his acrobatic play, an affliction Donnie Dark does not share with his childhood idols.
"All NHL goalies have fear," Edwards says. "You know the puck can hurt you. But you have to get a kind of killer instinct. You don't want anyone to beat you, and you'll do anything imaginable to stop them. If it takes your head, you'll stop it with your head."
When Desjardins stopped one with his eye last February, Edwards got his chance. Called up from Hershey that day, he wished Al Smith, Desjardins' backup, good luck following the warm-ups before a game against Minnesota.
"You don't know?" said Smith.
"You're playing tonight."
"No, I, er, didn't know," Edwards stammered, pulling his socks back up.
Smith quit the team that night. "They were stuck with me then," Edwards says. He responded to the pressure by beating Minnesota and Toronto back to back, allowing two goals in each game. It was Imlach's decision to start the untested Edwards over Smith.
"I took flak from the players and media at the time," Imlach says, "but it was the right decision. They have to say so now, but they didn't then. Edwards has got lots of confidence in himself and is willing to go out and prove it to you, which are the intangibles that can make a goaltender great. He proves it every game. They can talk about [the New York Islanders'] Mike Bossy for Rookie of the Year all they want, even if he scores 50 goals, but Edwards wins games for you. Bossy doesn't win 50 games for you. A goaltender some nights is 80% of your team. In playoff hockey he is 80% of your team. A forward like Bossy isn't going to score enough goals for you to win every night, but a goaltender can stop enough shots for you to win every night. There's a helluva difference. If knowledgeable hockey people were doing the voting, the kid would win the rookie award hands down."
Imlach pauses. "I'll tell you a story about Donnie," he says. "He was in here last summer, down in the mouth about losing four straight to the Islanders in the playoffs, and he was looking for some encouragement, so he and his wife could buy a house. So I pretty much told him that he'd earned a job, that it was his to keep, that we were happy enough. That perks him up, and he asks me, 'Punch, how long are you going to be around here because I'm going to win the Stanley Cup for you?' I had to look over at the kid twice. In all my years nobody had ever promised to win the cup. Even in Toronto, where we won a few. So I told him he'd better hurry up then and win it, 'cause I couldn't wait too long.