Wilson: Toskala is fine

MIKE ZEISBERGER -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 8:37 AM ET

The Vesa Toskala jokes were flowing hot and heavy around town yesterday, less than 24 hours after he had fished the equivalent of a touchdown out of his net in a 7-2 drubbing to the Buffalo Sabres.

Here are a couple of examples.

"How can a guy who spent so much time on those sandy California beaches not be able to stop a beach ball?"

Or how about this zinger?

"In California, Toskala's neck was burned from being out in the sun too long. In Toronto, his neck was burned from the goal light being on all the time."

Ouch.

Yet before the Maple Leafs goaltender officially is declared a flop across the board, a voice of reason last night might help this sudden city-wide panic to end.

EMERGED

That person was none other than San Jose Sharks general manager Doug Wilson, who watched Toskala come up through his organization to emerge, in his mind, as one of the upper echelon goalies in the game.

"I understand the passion of the fans and that's wonderful, butI'm not sure you want to judge him after just two exhibition games," Wilson said in a phone interview from San Jose. "He is a very good goalie and I predict he will play very well for the Toronto Maple Leafs.

"He is very mentally tough. He'll be able to handle the (spotlight) in Toronto."

Wilson said Toskala was very much in demand at the time of the trade in June that sent the Finnish goalie and forward Mark Bell to Toronto for a first- and second-round draft pick in 2007 and a fourth rounder in 2009.

"We feel Evgeni Nabokov is a top five goalie in this league and we think Vesa is not far behind that," Wilson said.

"We had many many teams interested in him.

"He will be very good. You just watch."

Toskala has been anything but that through two pre-season games, allowing 10 goals and hearing endless jeers from the disgruntled faithful at the Air Canada Centre.

"You block that stuff out," Toskala said after practice. "You just focus on getting better. The only things I care about are those I can control.

"I know how good I can play."

Fellow goalie Andrew Raycroft is accustomed to being made the scapegoat by the home fans and tried to pass on to Toskala that it is part of being a Leaf.

"I was starting to think it was personal. Now I know it was not," Raycroft said jokingly

"Seriously, if you lose, (the negative reaction) is inevitable. If you win, they'll start planning the parade again."

Raycroft will get the start against the Detroit Red Wings at the ACC tonight while Toskala goes tomorrow in Detroit.

Coach Paul Maurice said a decision on his starter for the season opener against the Ottawa Senators on Wednesday will not be made until the pre-season is over.

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RED LIGHT BLUES

A comparison of the maligned Maple Leafs goaltenders.

VESA TOSKALA

Pre-season

Games played: 2

Minutes: 119

Goals against: 10

Average: 5.04

Save %: .844

Record: 0-2-0

2006-07

Games played: 38

Minutes : 2,142

Goals against: 84

Average: 2.35

Save %: .908

Record: 26-10-0-1

ANDREW RAYCROFT

Pre-season

Games played: 2

Minutes: 121

Goals against: 6

Average: 2.98

Save %: .889

Record: 1-0-1

2006-07

Games played: 72

Minutes: 4,108

Goals against: 205

Average: 2.99

Save %: .894

Record: 37-25-0-9


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