March 26, 2010
Leafs stick with Gustavsson
By QMI Agency
If Ron Wilson were Henry Kissinger, he couldn't have fared better with Friday's subtle international diplomacy.
The Maple Leafs coach satisfied the wishes of people in New York, Sweden, Quebec and Toronto - and all it took was a small adjustment to the coach's goaltending rotation.
By keeping Jonas Gustavsson as the starter against the New York Rangers, Wilson will reward the rookie for his 6-0 winning streak with two starts against Swedish national team pal Henrik Lundqvist of the Rangers, beginning Saturday at the Air Canada Centre.
That sets up Jean-Sebastien Giguere to play in Pittsburgh on Sunday, but more importantly down the road, it gives the veteran Giguere the hometown start he truly wanted, in front of friends and family on April 10 in the regular-season finale in Montreal.
Gustavsson kept a respectful distance from Lundqvist during the business portion of the Winter Olympics in Vancouver (Lundqvist was 2-2-1, Gustavsson beat Belarus in his only start), but the latter says they meshed nicely during down time.
"He's the first goalie of this generation in Sweden to leave and make it the whole way and every goalie back there has wanted to be the next Lundqvist," Gustavsson said. "It should be interesting the next couple of years because a lot of goalies (inspired by Lundqvist) will be coming out.
"Being with him, you notice more than anything how focused he is, but that he's also a nice guy."
But niceties aside, Lundqvist aims to stick it to his countryman and the Leafs, with New York needing to get by Atlanta and Boston at present to make the playoffs. Lundqvist is 10th in the NHL in goals-against average (2.43) and save percentage (.919), while the Rangers enter this weekend three points back of the eighth-place Bruins.
The Leafs also play in Manhattan on April 7, a start that is also going to be Gustavsson's if the rotation sticks.
"He's playing well right now," Lundqvist said of Gustavsson and his .919 save percentage through his recent personal winning streak. "We'll need a good game to beat them."
With the majority of his career spent in the Western Conference with Calgary and Anaheim, Giguere rarely has had the chance to play at the Bell Centre in the shadow of his childhood surroundings.
"I'm happy that (Wilson) came to see me on his own, because it saved me going to ask him," Giguere said after Friday's optional practice at the MasterCard Centre. "My family hasn't really seen me play for the Leafs live yet (when Toronto came to nearby Ottawa twice in March, he was the backup). I've played in Montreal about four or five times at the most."