And that's the end of that

MIKE ZEISBERGER, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:20 AM ET

DETROIT -- Fidgeting with his navy blue tie as he left the Maple Leafs dressing room last night, Vesa Toskala probably was thankful there were no hecklers urging him to choke himself with his own cravat.

As harsh as that suggestion might sound, such was the backlash against the former San Jose Shark earlier this week after he and his teammates were humiliated in a 7-2 loss at the hands of the Buffalo Sabres.

Perhaps the unwarranted waves of panic that flowed through the city in the ensuing days concerning the rough start of the new Leafs goaltender might finally be somewhat alleviated after his solid performance in a 4-0 loss to the host Detroit Red Wings last night in the pre-season finale for both teams.

The score was not a true reflection of Toskala's play. The Leafs were outshot 32-13 and would have been drubbed worse if not for the efforts of the acrobatic Finn.

The moment the final horn echoed through the Joe Louis Arena, the inevitable question popped up.

Had Toskala done enough to earn the start over incumbent Andrew Raycroft in the regular season opener Wednesday against the Ottawa Senators?

Coach Paul Maurice refused to take the bait, saying only that he thought Toskala "played very well."

If the decision is to be made purely by pre-season numbers, then Raycroft has the advantage.

His goals-against and save-percentage stats were better, not to mention the fact that he did not suffer a regulation-time loss in his three exhibition starts.

On the other hand, the fact that the Leafs gave up three high-round draft picks to acquire Toskala and Mark Bell, then immediately signed him to a contract extension, would suggest that they have the confidence in him to be a No. 1 goaltender.

"I'll have to make a decision on how I'll handle them," Maurice said coyly.

Toskala's performance was not wart-free.

Johan Franzen's opening goal of the game early in the second period was the direct result of a puck-handling faux pass by Toskala and young defenceman Anton Stralman while Mikael Samuelsson's late score came from a relatively bad angle.

"I felt good out there," Toskala, 30, said. "It has been a long summer and we haven't had a lot of practices together as a team."

Asked what has surprised him the most since camp started two weeks ago, Toskala did not mince words.

"To be honest, it's how interested you guys are in the pre-season,"he said, referring to the media.

Just wait until the regular season starts. He hasn't seen anything yet.

Meanwhile, Maurice has plenty of other issues to deal with in the coming days.

Of the concerns he and general manager John Ferguson have entering the regular-season opener against Ottawa on Wednesday, sloppy defensive zone coverage is foremost.

A lack of discipline must be addressed. The Leafs took another 14 penalties last night including three minors by Alexei Ponikarovsky.

Pavel Datsyuk and Daniel Cleary also scored for the Wings, who dropped Toronto's pre-season record to 3-3-2.

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THE GOOD

- Excuse the sarcasm, but Maple Leafs goalie Vesa Toskala did not allow the first shot to go in for the first time in his three appearances. It's a start, if nothing else.

- Andy Wozniewski continued to be the most impressive of the candidates attempting to snap up one of the final spots on the blue line.

- Feisty forward Kris Newbury and Red Wings veteran Daniel Cleary had a feud going all night, with the young Leaf refusing to back down.

THE BAD

- Nine shots in the first 40 minutes won't win any team too many games. Forget the fact that many of the Leafs' important forwards did not make the trip, including Mats Sundin, Jason Blake and Darcy Tucker.

- Bryan Muir, Staffan Kronwall and Anton Stralman struggled in their own end throughout the evening.

- Alexei Ponikarovsky must learn that checking an opponent with one hand on his stick will almost always net him a penalty. For the record, he had three minors.


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