Leafs/Sabres Post-Game: Toskalol

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    It may be righteous laughter because you’ve been saying it all along: “Toskala won’t bounce back this year”.  It could also be nervous laughter because you think to yourself: “no way he keeps this play up…right?”.  It may just be maddening, maniacal laughter as you cry out: “well we all knew this season just could not get off to a perfect start for my Maple Leafs“. Any way you cut it, there is no satisfied, back-slapping laughter celebrating the accolades of Vesa Toskala.  This is what you would have hoped for among the legion of Toronto supporters to start the 2009-2010 campaign.  Sadly, our Finnish tender has left us wanting.  Tonight’s 7-6 debacle against the Buffalo Sabres was just more of the same.

    Here are some quick notes from this Sunday night shootout:

    -Outside of tonight’s goaltending woes, you had to be happy with the offensive resilience of the Leafs.  Ron Wilson tried out some new line combinations in an effort to get Nikolai Kulemin going while seeing how Viktor Stalberg fit in on Grabovski’s wing.  The top six (Blake-Stajan-Kulemin, Hagman-Grabovski-Stalberg) had a good showing overall.  It is clear that Niklas Hagman is a great complement for pretty much anybody with his hockey smarts and excellent puck-handling skills.  It will be up to the coaching staff to iron out the specifics otherwise.  Regardless, with another solid outing, Viktor Stalberg has to have a roster spot with his name on it.

    -The third line of Wallin-Mitchell-Stempniak was one of the best on the ice tonight.  The trio buzzed around all night long with impressive success, including a pair of goals from the oft-criticized Stempniak.  Ron Wilson showed confidence in this group as they were out late in an effort to tie up the game.  The chips are falling in a well-defined pattern at this point, and you can be fairly confident the third line will look something like this come Thursday.

    -The story of the night, tomorrow, and the coming days will be Vesa Toskala’s game (or lack thereof).  Management will take the path of least resistance in this case and give Toskala his fair shake.  This will involve giving him full command of the Leafs goaltending ship.  We can only mention that “he clearly has the skill” so many times before the claim becomes an empty motto of the downtrodden.  It is very simple: Toskala will have to start showing some results.  Unlike last year, where there were no suitable replacements, Brian Burke has done his job and brought in Gustavsson.  The Monster looks to be capable of ousting Toskala from his throne.  He will do so unless “VeTo” starts to play like a number one goaltender in the NHL.

    With this firefight-finish to the preseason, the excitement will only continue to mount as October 1st approaches.  The Leafs have played an inordinate amount of games in the past few weeks, and are going to spend the next few days on a team-bonding retreat.  The last cuts will soon be made public, and we will finally get a picture of what the opening night roster will look like for the 2009-2010 Toronto Maple Leafs.

    As always, interested to hear your thoughts.

    Cheers,

    Nikhil

    [email protected]

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