Monster mash-ing opponents
Lance Hornby, QMI Agency
|Toronto Maple Leafs goalie Jonas Gustavsson (R) makes a save in front of Tampa Bay Lightning's Steven Stamkos (91) and Ryan Malone (12) during the second period of their NHL hockey game in Tampa, Florida November 22, 2011. (REUTERS/Mike Carlson)
After two years of seeing and hearing Jonas Gustavsson get maligned by the media and fans, many Leafs were glad to see him play in a couple of laughers the past two games. Gustavsson, who lost some close games in excruciating fashion the past three years, enjoyed 14 goals the past two games, though he had to work for his wins too, with almost 70 combined saves.
”He’s been knocked around a bit, but we all know the type of goalie he is,” centre Tyler Bozak said. “We all believe in him and he’s shown himself now. He makes the big save when we need it and we can go down there, get a lead and build off of it. It’s tough to come overseas when he had a great career (and get used to the NHL). I think he’s done a great job.”
Coach Ron Wilson gave Gustavsson some James Reimer-like praise following Toronto’s 7-1 win in Tampa Tuesday night.
“He was efficient tonight, he really didn’t have to make too many big saves. Pucks were hitting him right in the chest, so his positioning was really good.”
RIGHT TIME FOR TIM
Very little of the Leafs’ modest success this year has been by design and centre Tim Connolly is a perfect example. Brought in at $9.5 miilion US for two years to solve the first line’s woes, he’s instead lending a hand to the second unit, which has been plagued by problems. Tuesday in Tampa, he had a Leaf-best three-point night, two of them on the power play.
“I just have to adjust my game to whomever I’m playing with,” Connolly said. “I said coming in here, it doesn’t matter who I’m playing with. I want to do the little things right, get these talented guys the puck and play solid defensively.”
On Tuesday, that meant some hustle on Clarke MacArthur’s opening-minute goal. With Mikhail Grabovski out and Nikolai Kulemin still in a 15-game scoring funk, Wilson teamed the two former Buffalo Sabre linemates.
“Me, Tim and Jason Pominville played together off and on there,” MacArthur said. ”Tim’s a great player, you just want to keep moving your feet when you’re with him and he’ll get you the puck.”
Grabovski is coming back from a leg injury in about a week, but Wilson likes things for now with Bozak on the first line.
“I’m rewarding him, because Timmy seems to be able to play with anybody and make them better,” Wilson said. “That (second) line has struggled for whatever reason and Tim has come in and made some simple plays. He plays hard every shift, not that Grabo doesn’t, but they just haven’t clicked.”
BOWEN ROAD SHOW
Leaf broadcaster Joe Bowen, a huge Green Bay/Notre Dame fan, couldn’t have asked for the team’s road schedule to unfold any better this autumn.
With the Leafs getting two days off in Dallas after arriving Wednesday, Bowen and his son, Sean, turned around and flew to Detroit for the Pack’s Thanksgiving Day game against the Lions. They planned to make it back to Dallas for Friday’s Leaf tilt, catch the team flight to Anaheim, then jet up to San Jose Saturday morning and drive to Palo Alto where the Fighting Irish are playing Stanford. They’ll make it back for Sunday afternoon’s game against the Ducks.
Next week, as luck would have it, the Packers are playing in New York against the Giants on the off-day between Toronto road games against Boston and the Rangers.
Through a stretch of seven games in 13 nights, the Leafs have stayed near the top of the Eastern Conference with other NHL clubs trying to find their identities.
“I’m feeling good about what we’ve got going here,” MacArthur said. “We have a couple of days off to rest and the biggest thing is to keep finding ways to win. “(Tuesday) was a weird game. You look up and you can’t believe it’s 7-1. Tampa had good chances and played hard, but it was one of those nights where everything goes our way.”