Toskala's funk a 'concern'

ROB LONGLEY, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:40 AM ET

He is not in line for the Jason Blake benching treatment any time soon, but in any debate on how many games Vesa Toskala has cost the Maple Leafs this season, you can start with last night at the Air Canada Centre.

In the 3-2 loss to the Boston Bruins, the Leafs did everything but score on Tim Thomas, who had liberal help from the posts and crossbar.

At the other end, it wasn't so pretty.

Even worse for Toskala, who is clearly in the midst of a six-game funk, is that questions about his shoddy play will be front and centre in the long lag time before the Leafs' next game Saturday night.

For starters, would it be too much to ask for your goaltender, and the player purported to be the team's only true star, to steal a win every once in a while?

Or, come up with a big save to sustain momentum?

Or, how about getting that save percentage above the generally accepted waterline of .900?

"Of course, I'm concerned," Leafs coach Ron Wilson said after yet another night when his team outshot a quality opponent and, for the last two periods anyways, bordered on dominating. "They (Toskala's goals against average and save percentage) are not good numbers. The positive is, we have a day off and three days to get him where he needs to be."

As it stands, Toskala is nowhere close.

Prior to last night, his save percentage was .878. Look around the league and, of the 51 goaltenders who had seen action in five or more games, only the Dallas Stars' Marty Turco (.870) was worse.

In Saturday's loss at Vancouver, Toskala allowed four goals on nine shots before getting yanked after two periods. Two more goals in the first eight shots he faced last night didn't exactly offer redemption for that sorry show.

"The (Leafs') goaltending, based on the team they have this year, has to be a strength," TV analyst and former goalie Greg Millen said yesterday. "Average isn't good enough, any more. You have to be spectacular in this league."

Below average is what Toskala was against the Bruins. The first goal, midway through the first period, was a softy on a wrist shot from Boston centre Phil Kessell that dribbled through his legs. It may have been the Finnish goalie's weakest surrender of the season.

"He beat me. It was a bad goal," Toskala admitted. "I was expecting to make the save. There is not much more (to say). I just want to help the team more."

That might have been nice. And Toskala wouldn't have needed a huge save on Michael Ryder's eventual winner in the second period.

That one was killer, given that the Leafs had been buzzing at the other end, doing everything but put the puck behind Thomas.

While, disposition-wise, Toskala would seem better prepared to handle such struggles than Andrew Raycroft did a year ago, Wilson and his staff will leave nothing to chance over the next few days.

Goaltender coach Corey Hirsch was at the game and morning skate yesterday and you can be sure that Toskala will be his focus once the team returns to practice tomorrow.

"He is deep in the net. He had better get out of the crease, I'll tell you that," Wilson said as an advance analysis.

"The first thing is (that) he has to realize that he has to play well. He has to come to that (on his own) and work hard practice. Seeing as we don't play until Saturday, there will be no excuse."

Not that there should have been, before it came to this.


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