Sunday, September 27, 2009

The Vesa Strikes Back!

First off, if you haven't seen it yet, it's absolutely mandatory that you view the video below and introduce yourself to what the Monster can do:

Amazing. Unbelievable. Everything you dared to dream. The Monster is for real. A good assessment of his talents is found here:

"When I look at the leg extension involved in that save from the overhead camera it’s not the distance his right leg covers that’s amazing, but the angle at which it travels from his body to the post. Look at it and pause it. It’s insanity. He cuts off angles like I’ve really never seen before…his style is unique for sure. Sick."

But this post isn't about Jonas Gustavsson, as I'm sure many, if not most, of the others will be. Instead, I feel compelled to add some balance, particularly in regards to good ol' Mr. Dogshit, my dear friend, the Vesa.

I was as hard as anybody last season on Toskala. I wrote post after post after post demoralizing the Leafs' starting goaltender. And then I wrote another, and then another on top of that. And yet oddly, despite an uninspiring preseason, I find myself cheering for the Vesa again, and even , dare I say it, believing in him.

I'm not crazy. I do remember that Toskala did suck. I do remember his habit for soft goals and his terrible tendency to let them in off the first shot of the game. But did you know that in the Vesa's last 15 starts before surgery, the Leafs lost only twice in regulation? One of those losses was actually credited to Joseph who replaced Toskala and surrendered the winning goal, while the other was a game in which the Leafs were shutout 2-0 and Toskala made 32 saves.

7 wins. 2 losses. 6 overtime losses. 20 points of a possible 30. A 666. winning percentage and a .907 save percentage over that time.

He was on a roll and getting better. Toskala's last 5 games before surgery were his best performances of the year. All five went to overtime or a shoot-out:

Feb. 21, 2009. The Sundin game. A 3-2 shoot-out win for Vancouver. 35 saves for Toskala.

Feb. 22 and 25, 2009. Back to back coach-killing victories over the NY Rangers, one in overtime, one in shoot-out. 39 saves and 31 saves.

Feb. 26, 2009. A 5-4 shoot-out victory over the NY Islanders. 40 saves.

Mar. 3, 2009. A 3-2 overtime loss to New Jersey. 49 saves.

3-0-2. Eight of ten possible points. A .941 save percentage.


Despite a season with numbers no better then that horrible Raycrap, there's no comparison between the two goalies. For one thing:

He's maybe not up there with Todd Gill in terms of heart, and he's nowhere near Wendel Clark, but the Vesa kinda resembles Ian White in soul and spirit, and we saw the way he turned himself around with the right mentors and teammates.

It's actually a really good scenario right now. Either Gustavsson pushes Toskala to be a better goalie, or he just takes the starting role on his own merit. One thing is for certain: the Leafs' starting goaltender will be better then he was last season. Which reminds me - let's go back to one of those old posts and see what MF37 had to say at the time:

"Perhaps the best case scenario for the Leafs and Toskala is hanging on to him to platoon with Pogge, lessening his workload and hopefully repairing his game."

Mm-hmm. The Bitter Leaf Fan is a smart guy, obviously. Well, what did I say?

"...let him share the duties with Pogge until next year's deadline. With another year off his contract he might seem more attractive to other NHL teams, and with a decreased workload, it's not unfathomable that he might rebound and have a stellar year."



Who the fuck is Pogge?!


Okay, so the Vesa just gave up 7 goals tonight on 24 shots and the Leafs end up losing their last preseason game to Buffalo, 7-6. A brutal performance. Quite horrifying, really. Toskala's preseason save percentage is so depressing I can't be bothered looking it up. It's might be under .700. Doesn't matter what it is, he doesn't appear ready.

Does it change the way I feel? Not too much, but it has accelerated my interest. Toskala's time is up. If he starts on Thursday in the opener against Montreal (and I think he will), he has to perform right away. The pressure from the fans is on his shoulders like never before and tolerance for Raycrapian-style nights, like the one we just witnessed, will be non-existent.

So, it doesn't look good for the Vesa, but I'm still cheering for him anyways. I can't help it, I love rooting for the underdog, especially when they have their back up against the wall. It's a huge part of what makes me a devout Leafs fan, and right now, Toskala is the biggest underdog of all.

He's also winning the Larry Murphy race.


sleza said...

aww, poor vesa needs some love too :)

blurr1974 said...

I believe in the Vesa

eyebleaf said...

I'm with Blurr: I believe in Vesa Toskala.

Not sure why, but it feels the right thing to do.

general borschevsky said...

sleza, blurr, and eyebleaf! You're all good people.

It does feel like the right thing to do... for now. Winning that first game against Montreal on Thursday is now vital.

Alex said...

Something that not many people have mentioned in this Vesa conundrum is the effect of Allaire. I have to wonder if Allaire is pushing a style that Vesa is having trouble adopting. Is there even the small chance that these are just the growing pains of new technique? For the love of god, please, someone tell me there is that chance.

general borschevsky said...

Hey Alex! Thanks for dropping in. Great comment. Yes, I think there's a good chance that Toskala and Allaire have only just begun their journey together. Long way to go still.