Where is Allan Bester when you need him?
I don’t want to say the Toronto Maple Leafs goaltending situation is in dire straits, but at the moment I can’t find my thesaurus to sugarcoat it a bit. Jonas Gustavsson and James Reimer have just been ok this season, not terrible, but not great either. The problem is their play has tailed off lately during this all important push for the playoffs.
Now Brian Burke recently gave the tandem a vote of confidence and claimed he wasn’t worried about the Leafs goaltending. I’m not entirely sure who he was trying to convince more with that, the fans or himself.
Again Reimer and Gustavsson haven’t been awful, but on this Leafs squad you have to be good night in and night out. Remember this is a team that doesn’t exactly scream defense. When I think of defending and the Toronto Maple Leafs, the first thing that comes to mind is the team brass trying to “defend” their logic for ballooning ticket prices.
Both Reimer and Gustavsson have played well during stretches this season. Reimer picked up right where he left off last year to start the season, but then an injury sidelined him for over a month and he has yet to find his groove again. Gustavsson had a great January and was showing signs of why he was so coveted when the Leafs signed him out of Sweden. In February however, he has yet to win a game culminating with a nightmare performance against the Devils this past Tuesday. Mark Fayne even managed to score the OT winner on Gustavsson with a shot that was going two feet wide.
The look on Joffrey Lupul’s face says it all. It looked like someone told him Santa Claus wasn’t real. Gustavsson either played that shot brutally or fell victim to some Jedi mind trick by New Jersey GM Lou Lamoriello. Don’t think for a second that hockey genius Lamoriello couldn’t pull that off.
The Leafs options look thin at the moment. Acquiring standout backups like the Canucks Cory Schneider or the Kings Jonathan Bernier doesn’t look like a possibility until the off-season. The Islanders Evgeni Nabokov could be an interesting option as he has played very well this season, but New York may want some young Leaf talent in return. As a last resort they could look into pulling free agent Marty Turco from his couch and putting him between the pipes. That’s a gamble at best though.
You don’t always need great goaltending to win the Cup. We have seen Detroit win over the years with simply decent play at the goalie position. The difference is Detroit was and is a great team. What strong goaltending does do is make an ok team great. That’s the conundrum the Leafs are in. If you put Gustavsson or Reimer on the Red Wings I’m sure they would do fine. In Toronto they just can’t mask the team’s defensive mistakes.