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Maple Leafs 2 v. Rangers 7: Confidence In Short Supply

Greg Millen catches a lot of flak around these parts for his dogged determination to show that there has never been a goal scored that has been the fault of the goaltender. However, before Ron Wilson's presser last night he brought up a great point which the coach then re-iterated. Millen noted that the Rangers are able to have a strong forecheck and four defencemen under the age of twenty-five because they know that they can take chances with Henrik Lundqvist tending goal. He pointed out that the team can send two men in on the rush because every shot on goal doesn't have a great chance of going in. Ron Wilson was then asked about what he thought about the Rangers and his answer extolled the virtues of a John Tortorella-coached team - hard-working, aggressive forecheck, hard hitting - which sounded suspiciously like what he wishes his team would be someday.

Last night was a great example of how a confident goaltender can spread confidence throughout the team. Both teams made some pretty bad giveaways but only one saw the majority of them end up in the back of the net. We can quibble at how many goals were directly, completely, and solely Toskala's fault but what won't change is that the Maple Leafs won't play anywhere near their potential with the finished Finn in net.

2009 - Vesa Toskala 4 205 0 2 19 5.56 101 82 .812 0
2009 - Henrik Lundqvist 5 298 4 1 12 2.42 149 137 .919 0

As a quick note, if we had swapped goalies the Leafs would only have allowed 8 goals in 5 games. Take that in while you think of how you can help make sure Toskala never plays for the Leafs again.

Ron Wilson certainly appeared to be at the end of his rope during his post-game presser which lasted all of four questions.  If Joey MacDonald doesn't get the start tonight against Colorado then I'd have to start thinking that maybe Ron Wilson has been replaced by a Montreal-developed spy machine bent on destroying the Old Rivals.

Here's a look at the seven goals that the Leafs coughed up:

  1. The first one's on an unfortunate 5-on-3 and Luke scehnn scores it so it hardly seems fair to count it against the Leafs but there it is. A wonderful start once more.
  2. Everything is under control with everyone covered and the puck behind the net when Wade "Sniff Sniff" Redden slides down past his winger and snaps a shot short side past Toskala. Right about now I cracked my second drink.
  3. The Leafs had cut the lead down to one last in the second when Dan Girardi was able to float a long-long wrister past Toskala. This goal was then given the Zapruder treatment by Greg Millen in a vain attempt to absolve him of any blame. Four goals later Millen will look a lot like Ron Wilson did during his presser.
  4. Hey! Look at this. The Leafs again got a late goal to cut the lead to one and they cough up an early one to kill any chance of a comeback after the team's best period of the year. Schenn loses it, Grabovski has a chance to clear it, and the Toskala lets a fluttering backhand go past his blocker. It's not all of his fault but let's file this under "It would be nice to get a save once in a while".
  5. Jeff Finger, trying to be the only one in blue and while to play goalie, makes a glove save but the deflected puck lies in the crease for a few seconds before a falling Marian Gaborik reacts first and slots home .
  6. After a Tomas Kaberle giveaway Toskala makes the first save but then lets in a long Dan Girardi slapper. One more for the "hey buddy, you get $4M a year to make those kinds of saves" file.
  7. Millen pointed out that the Leafs' PK could benefit from the occasional save that is of the more than routine variety and this goal highlighted that need. Yes, Toskala made the first save. And then he made sure to kick it right out to Sean Avery who then slid it five-hole.

I honestly can't write enough about Vesa Toskala and the detrimental knock-on effect that his horrible play has on the rest of the club. The stories are of course trumpeting the fact that the Leafs have never had such a bad start in the 80 year history of the Maple Leafs name or that newcomers Francois Beauchemin and Mike Komisarek have struggled mightily. The numbers will be crunched and it will certainly scream that it is time to look into contacting Mike Danton.

However, I don't think it's a stretch to say that getting NHL calibre goaltending (it's not even about getting average goaltending!) would make a difference.  Anything good that the team does gets lost because of the end result. Jeff Finger had his best game of the year and threw a couple of massive hits. Think that'll get mentioned? Nikolai Kulemin continued his hit-filler strong play. What are the odds anyone else notices? The team finally played more than a period of the kind of hitting forecheck that Wilson wants to see but what will get the focus? The L and the goaltending.

Ron Wilson has complained that things are really depressing and it's not too hard to understand why. If I was busting my ass only to see a terrible goal it would sap a lot of the will out of me. Especially if I killed myself during training camp to get the opportunity to make the team or improve my standing while the black hole in net was gifted his position and gets nothing but support from the coach. But that's just me. I've never had to play on a team with at least two superior options in net that didn't see the ice because of reasons beyond comprehension to every outside observer.

Tonight it's time to see Joey MacDonald begin warming the seat for Jonas Gustavsson. Damien Cox is half right. The Leafs need to cut ties with Vesa toskala. Let him know that he'll get every paycheque due to him but he'll never disgrace the Maple Leaf again. Also, he should invest in a comfortable pillow for those bus rides. At this point, even his mom has to admit that he is steering the Leafs down the garden path to heartbreak.