It’s eight games into the season. Â Phil Kessel is still the league’s leading goal scorer, the Leafs remain on top of their division, and Jonas Gustavsson is still trying to edge his career back onto the right path. Â The Monster was solid in the 4-2 loss, using his large frame and naturally quick reflexes to make a few spectacular saves. Â Yes, the reason Toronto lost last night’s game lies elsewhere (chiefly on the shoulders of a certain cherrypicking Czech) but Gustavsson was not perfect.
The reason Gustavsson’s potential has and always will be extremely high is because of the gifts he was born with: exceptional size and elite reflexes that are most often shown in his acrobatic cross-crease saves. Â When he first crossed the pond and tantalized Toronto fans with glimpses of this potential early on, we were witness to a netminder that seemed to move without thinking, darting around his crease and employing his frame to a distinct advantage.
Yet a significant amount of time has elapsed since Gustavsson burst onto the scene with the Leafs. Â During this time, Jonas has spent many days either injured, dealing with health issues or serving as a backup. Â That’s a lot of hours spent alone with just your thoughts and the inherent pressures of being a Toronto goaltender. Â Now, with the Monster finally healthy, he must focus on the revival of his game. Â As it stands, he is prone toÂ over analyzingÂ the play, often resulting in awkward positioning, saves, and instances where he appears unsure of his angles.
Gustavsson did an excellent job in the first half of last night’s game. Just as I had hoped, he made his early saves, he displayed a lot of poise, and his movements were controlled. He seemed more like Velcro and less like rubber, as many shots above the waist were absorbed. The confidence he gained from that strong start soared in the second period, as he made more timely stops to keep the Leafs in the game. I noticed he seemed much more comfortable in the net overall, relying on his reflexes and flexibility to make those big lateral saves with the leg pads. Despite the two breakway goals from Jaromir Jagr, he battled hard and stayed focused.
Overall, I thought Jonas gave his team a real chance to win. The third goal troubled me a little bit because his head wasn’t on a swivel, so he never gave himself a chance to anticipate Scott Hartnell’s shot in the slot. Because of this, he essentially guesses on the shot, and it showed. It was still a good performance that pushed him in the right direction, but a tough loss nevertheless. I hope Jonas starts on Thursday because he deserves a chance to bounce-back with a win. Even though he won’t be happy with the goals he allowed, hopefully Gustavsson stays positive and is proud of the saves he made.”
While it remains to be seen if Gustavsson will indeed be given a chance by the coaching staff, it is likely that both Tim Connolly and Tyler Bozak will make their returns to the lineup Thursday night against the Â Rangers. Â With Nazem Kadri and Matt Frattin in the mix, some interesting decisions will need to be made in short order as Toronto prepares to field a healthy team for the first time this season. Â Have your say: who sits? Â What will the lines look like?
The highest placed team the Leafs have beat this season is 13th in the East. To be fair, the sample size against “good teams” is limited to two games, and the Leafs competed much better against Philly than they did Boston (who are technically in 12th right now, anyways).
Gustavsson after last night’s defeat:
Wilson’s post game interview: