Yeah, yeah, yeah, we're all fickle for 'suddenly' turning on Vesa Toskala. A lot of good from this game will be overlooked because of Toskalol's performance and a lot of bad won't be highlighted by anyone other than Ron Wilson. The Leafs' defence did not have it's best game and the exit of Mike Komisarek did not help things. Luke Schenn's poor handling of a two-on-one didn't help on the Sabres' first goal and the Leafs' defensive backside coverage allowed two cross-crease passes to get through for goals.
But there's no sugar coating Toskala's poor performance. He played entirely too deep in his net which allowed Vanek's deflection a lot more net than it should have had. The Jochen Hecht goal where he spun around was symptomatic of one of two things:
- He isn't comfortable pushing off with his rebuilt groin and hip.
- He isn't thinking
It's not the first time this pre-season that Toskala has been that lost on a goal. The first against the Flyers was a similar goal. The seventh goal was again a result of his terrible play moving laterally.
The Leafs definitely started out disjointed. Wilson placed the blame at the feet of it being the Leafs' 9th pre-season game in 12 days but the majority didn't play in all of them. In fact, one of the best players on the ice was Viktor Stalberg who was playing in his eighth game. Eventually the Leafs grew into the game and finished the first period strong and with a two goal lead on a couple of nice deflections.
Overall, it felt like the forwards were continuing to develop some good chemistry and understanding. The increased knowledge of where each other would be was evident in the excellent puck pursuit that they showed. This was especially true of the Grabovski line. The pressure led directly to a couple of goals as Jason Blake's came after Nikolai Kulemin created a turnover at the blueline and the sixth by Grabovski came after the Leafs' recovered a loose puck.
A couple of the forwards showed a bit more of what was expected from them. Rickard Wallin looked much more comfortable on the puck and with his linemates. He was much more active in the offensive zone and made a great pass from behind the goal line to Lee Stempniak for his second goal. The other was Nikolai Kulemin. Wilson said in the post-game presser that he wanted to get him off of Grabovski's line (and Poni's) so that he wouldn't have his two Russian buddies to lean on. It paid dividends as he kept up the good forecheck and added a goal and an assist.
D.O. from Die By The Blade noticed that the forwards were dangerous throughout the game as well:
As you can imagine, the Sabres did plenty of good things in this game. All the news wasn't good however, there were planty of defensive breakdowns that led to the Leafs six goals. In addition, the Leafs hit three or four goal posts that could have easily made this game a Toronto rout.
It was also another chance for me to walk around the additions made to the Air Canada Centre. They are certainly impressive. The new LeafsTV studio is right by Burkie's Dog House (get the bacon wrapped dog), the massive screen outside of gate five will provide an amazing view of the games during the playoffs, and the concessions area around where the Ice Box used to be is a really nice expansion. Peddie wasn't lying when he said that the upgrades would make the experience of walking around the ACC better. Now, let's see if things will improve on the ice because that's all that matters.