October 1, 2011
Gustavsson will be on a short leash
By TERRY KOSHAN, QMI Agency
TORONTO - The emphasis on the strong start that James Reimer must have for the Maple Leafs, and then continue it through the regular season, doesnít mean that Jonas Gustavsson is any less important for future success.
Gustavsson canít be a guy who coach Ron Wilson throws in every so often and then keeps his fingers crossed that the Leafs come out okay on the other side.
Gustavsson had his strong points during a 4-3 pre-season overtime victory against the Red Wings in Detroit on Friday night, among them a save on Chris Conner on a breakaway during the second period.
Not only will Gustavsson feel the pressure to win, as he should, heís going to be trying to restore some confidence that was lost last season when he won just six times in 23 appearances. Injuries were influential, and when he did play, Gustavsson was inconsistent.
General manager Brian Burke, just to be sure, will keep his eyes open for a veteran goalie. Unless Gustavsson falters badly, there is no plan to acquire someone who could serve as a mentor to Reimer.
Still, one has to think that Gustavsson will be on a fairly short leash.
The expectation is the Leafs are leaning toward keeping eight defencemen when final cuts are made, with Matt Lashoff the lone blueliner getting a ticket to the Toronto Marlies. The pairing of Jake Gardiner and Mike Komisarek could be a duo that is together on opening night Thursday versus the Montreal Canadiens. With captain Dion Phaneuf, Luke Schenn and John-Michael Liles set, two of Carl Gunnarsson, Cody Franson and Keith Aulie would be in the press box to start ... Speaking of the restoration of confidence, put Komisarek in that group. He struggled in the second period with giveaways, and the woes culminated when he was penalized for holding Henrik Zetterberg. Todd Bertuzzi, not long after, scored on the power play. But Komisarek rebounded with a sharp third period and then fired a shot past Jimmy Howard for the winner in overtime. He might not have made the in-game comeback a year ago, when he never really found a groove in his play or mentally ... Gardinerís mobility and offence are above-average for a 21-year-old, as evidenced by his puck control and then the shot he used to score on Howard in the first period. What Gardiner will have to hone, as all young defencemen do, is his defensive play. That can be taught ... One bonus that comes with the Leafsí depth on defence is it gives Burke some trading options. No GM worth his salt is totally satisfied with his roster, and Burke certainly canít be, considering the zero playoff games Toronto has witnessed since he was hired almost three years ago. Using a defenceman as part of a trade to improve at forward is something that Burke would be open to do ... Another thought on the defence depth: With two NHL defencemen in street clothes, the guys who are playing will be under the gun that much more to perform, knowing they can be replaced at a momentís notice ... That lucky bounce Mike Brown got off the stick of the Wingsí Cory Emmerton, causing the puck to deflect behind Howard for the second Leafs goal, is the kind of thing players pray for in the regular season. Brown was not shooting from a great angle, but provided proof that when coaches tell you to get the puck on net because anything can happen, they mean it ... Aulie made a smart play when he thwarted Bertuzzi from getting a scoring chance, tying up the big Wings forward and managing not to get a penalty in the process ... Gunnarsson and Franson had trouble with the Wingsí cycling at times.
FROM THE HASH MARKS
Itís unfortunate the Leafs canít find a spot for Mike Zigomanis rather than ship him back to the Marlies. Not only is his faceoff work strong, but heís a positive influence off the ice. Heíll help tutor the likes of Joe Colborne with the Marlies. Zigomanis got an assist on Brownís first goal when he won a faceoff in the Detroit end ... Two former Leafs on the Red Wings blue line, and two different situations. Ian White shone for the San Jose Sharks during the playoffs last spring and was not on the free-agency market long, signing with the Wings on July 2. In the post-season, White recorded nine points (second among Sharks defencemen to Dan Boyle, who had 16) and finished with a plus-3. Garnet Exelby, meanwhile, might be in tough to resume a 408-game NHL career that was derailed when he spent all of the 2010-11 season with Rockford of the AHL ... A sore groin didnít stop Brown from throwing himself in front of a blast from Wings captain Nicklas Lidstrom, sending the puck out of harmís way. Brown is not paid to pop up on the scoresheet too often, but that kind of heart canít be measured in statistics ... If Matt Lombardi and Tyler Bozak are good to go for the regular season, the good camps that Philippe Dupuis and Darryl Boyce have had could be for naught.