Future looks bright

LANCE HORNBY, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:28 AM ET

The great goalie debate is far from finished, but let's just say the Maple Leafs feel a lot better today about swapping Justin Pogge for Jonas Gustavsson as their goalie of the future.

And Vesa Toskala, if he didn't know it already, has some serious competition for the starting job.

Gustavsson heard the Air Canada Centre crowd chant his nickname (Monster) during pre-game intro's, he stopped the first 12 shots he faced and, undaunted by two goals that weren't his fault, he stood tall in the third period, making a huge save after Luke Schenn gave the puck away.

"It's a great experience, too bad we couldn't get a point" Gustavsson said after the 2-1 loss. "They were tough goals, but all goals count."

Gustavsson hasn't won yet and has given up five goals in five periods, but in his first wire-to-wire game there was plenty to like about his poise and how he held Toronto in the game.

Bad marksmenship, strong Ottawa forechecking and gaffes by his own club tested the 24-year-old's mettle. He finished with 26 saves.

He was beaten on a classic penalty shot move by one of his childhood heroes, Daniel Alfredsson, and a near illegal high stick goal by Shean Donovan after almost all the Leafs had wandered out of position.

But no matter what happened last night, fans haven't seen the last of Toskala and it's also quite likely farm team starter Joey MacDonald will put in an appearance this season.

"I trust (Toskala) to get the job done, but right now, if he was a race horse, you'd say he's not in form," coach Ron Wilson said before the game. "I'm confident he would be able to play (this) weekend and give us just as good a chance to win as we're hoping Jonas does tonight.

"I feel bad for Vesa being put in this position when he hasn't done anything wrong. He's a great goalie, he works hard at practice, he might start the next game, he might not."

There were pre-season projections of a rough 55-27 split in games between Toskala, who was coming off two surgeries and was the designated No. 1, and Gustavsson.

LANCE.HORNBY@SUNMEDIA.CA


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