March 27, 2012
Rynnas talking playoffs
By TERRY KOSHAN, QMI Agency
TORONTO - Only in the bizarre world of the Maple Leafs could a goaltender stand in the dressing room and talk about anticipating the playoffs on a night the Leafs were eliminated from post-season contention.
“It’s a big thing for me,” Jussi Rynnas said of the Marlies’ soon-to-be playoff appearance. “I want to go as far as possible and be a No. 1 goalie with the Marlies.”
Rynnas made his NHL debut on Tuesday evening against the Carolina Hurricanes, stopping all 10 shots he faced in 35 minutes 23 seconds of action.
Leafs coach Randy Carlyle had no plan to use Rynnas, but had no choice when Jonas Gustavsson allowed three goals on 12 shots. Rynnas was summoned from the Marlies at 1 p.m. on an emergency basis after it was determined that James Reimer — who took a shot on Monday in practice and “was feeling ill,” Carlyle said — would not be available.
Depending on the health of Reimer, Gustavsson might not have played his final game as a Leaf. Slated to be an unrestricted free agent this summer, Gustavsson, one would think, is as good as gone.
Said general manager Brian Burke on the day that he signed Gustavsson in July 2009: “He doesn’t make saves, he blocks shots, he gets to the right place, makes himself big and the puck hits him.”
Well, Burke was right about the first part.
If Ron Wilson was held responsible for the team’s play and got fired, then what of goaltending consultant Francois Allaire and the play of the goalies?
As for Gustavsson’s plight, when he skated off the ice as Rynnas came on, something stood out. We didn’t expect the five Leafs on the ice to carry Gustavsson off on their shoulders, but only David Steckel and Joey Crabb skated by to, we presume, offer encouragement. Captain Dion Phaneuf, Carl Gunnarsson and Tim Connolly did not.
Gustavsson appears to have no confidence and his teammates don’t look like they have much in him either. Of course, with five games remaining, they don’t have much in themselves.
With his team’s season on the line, alleged leader Phil Kessel was minus-1 in just over 20 minutes of ice time. But otherwise, zeroes on his stats line: No shots, no missed shots, no hits, no giveaways, no takeaways. That’s a lot of nothing ... Leafs fans finally have started to demonstrate they’re fed up with the weak team they support by not showing up at the ACC. Several hundred empty seats were noted, and to think, there are three home games remaining. Rough estimates had the rink at about 60% full in the third period ... Is there a dumber notion than that of tanking? When people argue the Leafs should tank games to land a higher draft choice, it’s not quite how it works. Professional athletes, for the most part, aren’t wired to just look the other way. Leafs fans should be more concerned that the Leafs are losing games honestly. This is not good hockey team, period. Anyone who thinks a higher draft choice will be much help to this group is delusional ... Two of the better first-year defencemen were involved in the game. Jake Gardiner is one of the few legitimate blue-chip prospects in the Leafs organization, and Justin Faulk carries the same weight for the Hurricanes. Gardiner leads all NHL rookie blueliners with 26 points, while Faulk is second with 22. Before Tuesday’s game, Faulk led all rookies with an average of 22 minutes 59 seconds a game and Gardiner was third at 21 minutes 27 seconds. As good as Gardiner and Faulk might be one day, the expectation is Adam Larsson of the New Jersey Devils will emerge as the best of the group in the long run ... When the Leafs outshot the Hurricanes 12-7 in the second period, it was the second time in 19 periods they had more shots than their opponent.
FROM THE HASH MARKS
Not that they had a ton of scoring chances, but when they did, the Leafs had little clue and even less luck. The puck skipped over Carter Ashton’s stick as he stared at an open net, and Jay Rosehill couldn’t out-muscle Tim Gleason, also while an open net was looking back at him ... Fitting that both Tim Brent and Jay Harrison helped officially kill the Leafs’ playoff hopes, given that they couldn’t, apparently, cut it with the Leafs. Brent blossomed with Toronto last season and has kept that going with Carolina after the Leafs let him walk as a free agent. Harrison, an Oshawa native, couldn’t get on track in Toronto but has done more than that with the Hurricanes. Harrison’s goal was his ninth of the season in 67 games.