With James Reimer recovering from whiplash, the collective eyes of Leafs Nation are set on Jonas Gustavsson as he gets the start inÂ Philadelphia. Gustavsson has played six of the last seven periods of hockey (including OT vs. Montreal) for the Leafs and the numbers have not been pretty – a 5.35 goals against average and .852 save percentage.
It has been apparent that the Leafs play a different game in front of Gustavsson due to the confidence factor. The gambling instinct tends to be restricted, and the defence scrambles in fear of what a shot allowed might mean. The Cammalleri 40-footer on Saturday night is a perfect, confidence-deflating example of a seemingly harmless shot going in from a perimeter position.
By the same token, the Leafs‘ defence has to do Gustavsson some favours, too. Effective crease clearing needs to be executed regardless of who is in net (eh, Cody?), and it’s particularly important when you’ve got a goaltender trying to settle in between the pipes. As the Bruins did last Thursday, the Flyers will be buzzing the crease and trying to play a physical game, and the Leafs have to answer the bell as best they can.
What’s the key to Gustavsson getting his confidence, and the confidence of his team, back tonight in Philly?
Goldman: Gustavsson has to make his early saves in a controlled, confident, poised manner. If he can do this, he will instill confidence not only in himself, but in his teammates as well. He has to manage the game well by controlling the puck, making good decisions when asked to play it, and by not diving around in an uncontrolled manner. He is very athletic and flexible, but he needs to channel his inner Carey Price and look and appear as stoic in the net as early as possible. If he can do this, I have no doubt he has the ability to ride it out and come up with a big win for the Leafs!
Do you think Gustavsson is a capable NHL backup at this point?
Goldman: Yes, he is definitely capable of being an NHL backup. He has a great combination of size, speed and reflexes. He just needs to gain some confidence and continue to work hard. His luck will start to change if the work ethic continues to stay at a high level.
If the struggles continue tonight against Philadelphia, and Reimer remains out come Thursday against the Rangers, would you give Scrivens the call (who has been recalled as backup)?
Goldman: No, I wouldn’t. I think this is a perfect opportunity for Ron Wilson to give Gustavsson a chance to prove himself. If he struggles against the Flyers tonight, give him a few days to practice with Francois Allaire and bounce back. Last season, James Reimer’s ability to bounce back from a loss was one of his strongest traits. If Gustavsson is not given that opportunity, the organization is not giving him a chance to prove himself. That’s just my opinion on the matter, for as I always say, it’s not what you do that always matters, but what you do next.
We will see the same lineup that beat Montreal on Saturday, with Bozak and Connolly still sidelined and Cody Franson the healthy scratch on the backend. The other storyline outside of the crease will be the first regular season meeting between the two Schenns.
If the Leafs can weather the physical storm, they do have the speed to outskate this Flyers team, especially their aging defence corps. The Leafs executed an impressive comeback in Philly in their stretch run last season by doing just that.