Backstrom: Don't give up on Vesa

STEVE SIMMONS, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:34 AM ET

Niklas Backstrom has a word of advice for frustrated fans of the Maple Leafs: Don't give up on Vesa Toskala.

Backstrom, one of the leading candidates to play goal for Finland in the Winter Olympics, is a big booster of his fellow Finnish netminder, Toskala. Even if no one else is around here.

"I don't know what's happened because I don't play in the East, but I believe in Vesa. He's a very good goalie. He's always been a good goalie," said Backstrom, who was very good himself last night, turning away a game-high 37 shots in a 5-2 Minnesota Wild win over the Leafs last night at the Air Canada Centre. The Monster may be the nickname of the Leafs new starting goalie but it was Backstrom, as is his history, playing the part of Monster for the Wild, especially in an 18-shot third period and ill-fated comeback attempt by Toronto.

"I think (Vesa) gets too much blame for what's gone on with this team," said Backstrom. "The easy way out is always to blame the goalie. But I know Toskala. I know him from San Jose and from home. I haven't seen him play this year (who has?) but I always thought he was one of the best goalies in the West when he played for San Jose. I think you'll see him playing that way again."

Backstrom, who will likely battle Calgary's Miikka Kiprusoff for the starting goalie position for Finland at the Olympics, wasn't sure what to think of his NHL look at Jonas Gustavsson in the Leaf net. Gustavsson played brilliantly early on last night and then let in a bad goal before his own teammate, Tomas Kaberle, deflected a puck by him. "I try to worry about my own game more than worry about his."

Toskala was the first dressed player out of the Leafs dressing room post-game and met briefly his with agent, Don Baizley. Clearly he seems unhappy with his lot as current backup and fan whipping boy. Baizley admitted he has talked with Leafs GM Brian Burke to discuss Toskala's problematic start but wouldn't elaborate on where those discussions went.

STEVE.SIMMONS@SUNMEDIA.CA


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