It was probably unrealistic to expect the Leafs to walk away with two points in
. Many nights this season, the Leafs have done a lot of things well, but something was missing. Turnovers are often a problem. Lack of offense has been an obvious issue as well. Vancouver
Last night, yet again, it was a case of not enough goals. The one they did get was a softie given up by Luongo.
It seemed to be a tougher night for Schenn, who has played it tough and largely well this season. Phaneuf and Beauchemin played big minutes. But Burrows and Kessler are hard to play against, not to mention the gifted, always improving Sedins and a strong supporting cast.
is hot these days and are way ahead on their development curve when compared with the young Leafs. Vancouver
The Leafs compete pretty hard most nights, but in too many games they just can’t finish. What’s Kessel, minus 12 on the season? Versteeg, minus 15? No excuses. They are good players but that’s not good enough for guys who are, in fairness, still very young. But fair or not, they are two of the key guys expected to lead the way offensively.
Back in August, I wrote a column entitled “Is the Leaf 'top-six' scary—in a bad way?” (Click on the link to read the earlier story.) Well, at this point in the season, it would appear that is the case.
A few weeks ago when Giguere was felled by a wonky groin, Gustavsson had his opportunity to shine and by and large rose to the occasion.
Now, Giggy may be out even longer and I have to believe this truly is “The Monster’s” time to lay claim to a job that, if Giguere was healthy, would otherwise not be his just yet.
This reminds Leaf fans, at least a bit, of when then future Hall-of-Famer Grant Fuhr was the veteran, poised, experienced Stanley Cup-winning goalie in the Leaf nets. But he was aging and not quite what he had been— and a bit more injury-prone. So when Felix Potvin showed Pat Burns and Cliff Fletcher he had some guts and moxie (and he could stop pucks) he was suddenly the goalie of not just the future, but the present.
Fuhr was used as trade bait to acquire one more significant piece of the emerging Maple Leaf puzzle, Dave Andreychuk.
Now, I’m among those who did not like the idea of Giguerre losing his job because of injury, but as the season wears on and he can’t shake the injury bug, certain factors have come into play.
While not exactly aged, Giguere is facing an inevitable decline, one would think. Any goalie can face injury, but this groin issue seems persistent. These can be troublesome, annoying, long-term injuries.
I look back at my posts and I seem to be writing that I think Giguere has played pretty well most nights this season, but then I look at the “stats” and can’t help but notice that his save percentage is below .900. I well realize that stats don’t make a goalie— and that save percentage stat can be misleading. But it does perhaps indicate something.
Regardless, Gustavsson is the future, and quite likely, the present. Just like Potvin almost 20 years ago. I have a sense that Leaf fans are kind of anxious to see The Monster take over the reins. Is he ready? I don’t honestly know. But it strikes me that this young man (and he’s not that young anymore, at 26) is capable of being a very good number-one guy. We’ve all seen that he has the athletic skills and agility/reflexes to be awfully good.
Does he have the mental make-up?
Here’s hoping. Because right now, the Leafs will need the kind of extraordinary goaltending that will help them win games they have no business winning- and ensuring they get two points from the ones they should. That may be the only thing that can catalyze this group and give the forwards the confidence they need to start relaxing enough to score some goals on a consistent basis. That's when victories can begin to multiply.
But unless Gustavsson starts to really stand on his head, beginning Tuesday night, well, with just one game before a lengthy Christmas break, the Leafs will have too much time to ponder a season already beginning to slip away.