March 16, 2010
Message received by Mitchell, Monster
By MIKE ZEISBERGER, QMI Agency
OTTAWA -- Want to know why Maple Leafs general manager Brian Burke racked up all those frequent flyer points flying to Sweden last summer attempting to woo Jonas Gustavsson into blue-and-white?
The answer is beginning to emerge.
Gustavsson has now reeled off four consecutive victories for the Leafs, including a 4-1 victory over the Ottawa Senators Tuesday at Scotiabank Place.
Whereas he looked clumsy and out-of-place at times earlier this season, Gustavsson is beginning to exhibit the calm, cool and collected traits that made him such a coveted commodity for more than a dozen NHL teams during the 2009 off-season.
In the process, he certainly is giving Maple Leafs management something to think about as he approaches restricted free agency July 1.
Asked about the possibility of re-signing with Toronto, Gustavsson merely shrugged his shoulders.
"I leave that to (my agent)," said Gustavsson, who turned aside 30 Senators shots, "My first priority is to play as well as I can."
Coach Ron Wilson certainly is giving Gustavsson the opportunity to do just that, having stated that he and fellow goalie J-S Giguere will alternate between the pipes the rest of the way.
"I know it's a tough competition with Giggy," Gustavsson said. "It's just nice to be healthy and not be injured like I was earlier in the season.
"The more I play, the more I learn."
While Gustavsson is impressing management down the stretch, so, too, is forward John Mitchell.
On Saturday, Wilson delivered a verbal boot to the butt of Mitchell when he addressed the media.
"In these final 15 games, (Mitchell) needs to play as well as he can possibly play to put himself into position to be up here next year," Wilson said candidly at the time.
Mitchell seems to have received the message loud and clear.
With the Leafs nursing a 1-0 lead over their provincial rivals early in the second period Tuesday, Mitchell turned on the jets to squeeze by an attempted check by mammoth 6-foot-7 Sens defenceman Andy Sutton, then ripped a shot into the top corner past goalie Brian Elliott to put the Leafs up by two. It was just his fifth goal and 15th point of the season.
"It's been a tough go. I've missed 20 games with a knee injury and have been hit in the head a couple of times," Mitchell said. "But I'm starting to feel better."
Just like Gustavsson.