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Vesa Toskala


    UPDATE: Gustavsson is skating on the ice, and Ron Wilson has suggested he might be playing on Saturday despite just one practice. Also, rumors circulating Leafs could be after Frolov. Hockey Central at Noon suggests the possibility of Burke potentially sacrificing future in order to prevent Bruins from landing top 5 pick.


      I must confess, I bought in.  I bought into the mantra of improved team toughness, improved goaltending, improved and revamped defense, and an improved top6 forward unit possessing speed and skill who would be protected and insulated by a tough as nails complimentary group of players.  I watched the pre-season and was salivating at the skill, speed, and determination exhibited by the up and coming Leafs prospects.  But, then something very strange happened, something I cannot comprehend nor understand.  Every single player (with the exception of Stalberg), which had led to such optimism and belief of brighter days ahead – were demoted to the OHL or the AHL.  I sat there shaking my head, and privately and publicly went on and on about how this team could not succeed without the youth.  Ironically enough, I had absolutely no idea how right I was and how bad this could and would get.


        Bad goaltending is now blamed on an injury. The Leafs have called up rookie James Riemer who will be sitting on the bench tonight as Joey MacDonald gets the nod. Vesa Toskala has apparently suffered an undisclosed injury after last night’s 7-2 loss (my bet is a fan clubbed him Nancy Kerrigan style) and is now out. Toronto’s top two goaltenders (arguably) are now sidelined. Gustavsson is expected to return sometime next week.


          The Rangers are riding a 4 game win streak, the Leafs are not. The Rangers have a goal differential of +8 in their last 4 games, the Leafs have a goal differential of -6 in their last 3 games. The Rangers are 5th in the league on the PK (88%), while the Leafs are last (53.8%). The Rangers are 4th in the league for goals against per game (2.00). The Leafs are tied in last place with Florida at 4.25.


            The following are the Leafs lines for tonight’s game. Ron Wilson has shuffled the lines quite a bit and has looked to find some chemistry for a shooter to play with John Mitchell. He’s hoping Jason Blake will fill the role while Jamal Mayers can provide some grit on the right side.


              0-2-1 after 3 games, and the sky is falling.   Or so chicken little would have you believe, anyway.

              3 games in and panic?   Seriously?   You’d think the Leafs just traded away a handful of high picks for a relatively-unknown goaltender with an injury history.   Wait, scratch that — they did that a couple years ago and as I recall the move was far more heralded than denounced, at the time.

              Which is exactly my point:  you can’t know, early on, exactly how things will turn out.


                Given the early-season struggles of incumbent starting netminder Vesa Toskala, speculation is mounting that Jonas Gustavsson could receive his first NHL start as early as Tuesday night when the Leafs face their Ontario rivals, the Ottawa Senators.

                Early speculation is Toskala may not be all the way back, mentally or physically, from the groin and hip surgeries he endured last season. While it is obviously far too early to annoint Gustavsson the starter for the rest of the season (he has yet to play a full game in the NHL), it is not unreasonable to expect that in the wake of Toskala’s struggles he could receive an extended look, in the form of more early-season starts than were initially planned.


                  I’ll be liveblogging the Leafs and Caps tonight on theScore for those who will not be able to catch the game. There are a few changes to the Leafs lineup tonight as Mayers and Finger return. Below are the Leafs lines tonight pending any pre-game changes that can and do happen.


                    It’s official. Kessel is now listed on LTIR and Nik Kulemin has been called up. I’ll be liveblogging the Leafs season-opener tonight on thescore.com. The following are the projected lineups, as per Sportsnet, for tonight’s game. Also, Brendan Shanahan has decided to call it a career.


                      The Toronto Maple Leafs have sent forwards Jiri Tlusty, Nik Kulemin, and Tyler Bozak, as well as defender Carl Gunnarsson, to the Toronto Marlies of the AHL.

                      These moves leave the team with a 22-man roster, one under the season-opening limit of 23.    That number does not include either of Phil Kessel or Mike Van Ryn, as both will start the season listed as injured non-roster players.


                        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.


                          In the wake of Toskala’s current streak of allowing 10 (scratch that, 11)[SCRATCH THAT, 12] goals in 6 periods over the course of three nights, here are the following reasons why Toskala should stay.


                            The Maple Leafs continued their shaping of the NHL roster with another four cuts on Sunday. Top prospect Nazem Kadri will be going back to the OHL’s London Knights, Jonas Frogren and Christian Hanson will report to the Toronto Marlies, and Andy Rogers has been released. By my count, that leaves 30 players left (including Kessel who will be placed on the long-term injured reserve), meaning there will be another 6 cuts in the near future.


                              The Leafs improved their preaseason win total to six tonight at the ACC.  These are the final chances for some of the young hopefuls, and they are not going to go away easily.  Strong nights from Jonas Gustavsson and Viktor Stalberg were the headlines of this matchup.  Even the defense corps has a rookie strutting his stuff as Ron Wilson deemed Carl Gunnarsson their “best defenseman tonight”.


                                Jonas Gustavsson will make his much anticipated debut for the Maple Leafs in tonight’s preseason tilt against Detroit.  Coach Ron Wilson has indicated that he will be in there for at least the first period, but that the staff wants to break him in slowly.  If Toronto does not get barraged in the first twenty minutes as they have in recent exhibition matches, the Monster’s tenure may stretch to a period and a half.


                                  The following are the team lineups as per MapleLeafs.com. It does feature the kid line of Bozak, Stalberg and Hanson, but they are separated. Curious if that will remain the same for tonight’s affair in order to see what they can all do with other players.