Gustavsson lifts Maple Leafs
Monster turns aside 29 shots in 3-1 victory
MAPLE LEAFS, WINGS NOTES
When the Toronto Maple Leafs won the recruiting war to sign Jonas Gustavsson, a headline in one newspaper read: “Leafs land a Monster.”
A few months later, the sixfoot-three Swede arrived with gigantic expectations.
He was dubbed the franchise’s goalie of the future, a towering netminder who was supposed to steal the starting job and backstop the team into the NHL playoffs.
After a year in which he struggled to stay healthy and consistently win games, however, no one knows if Gustavsson is a legitimate No. 1 goaltender, or — like Vesa Toskala, Andrew Raycroft and Justin Pogge before him — if he’s another Toronto goaltender who failed to live up to the hype.
With J.S. Giguere sidelined for the time being with a strained groin, that picture should start to become clearer.
“That’s my goal, to one day be the No. 1 goalie,” Gustavs- son said. “I don’t know how long it will take. But it’s something that I’m looking for in the future.”
Gustavsson took a small step toward that goal Thursday, by stopping 29 shots in a 3-1 victory over the New Jersey Devils at the Air Canada Centre.
Gustavsson, who was named the game’s first star, did not have to be spectacular.
Nonetheless, aside from a redirected shot that snuck through his legs, he was nearly perfect in stopping everything that New Jersey sent his way.
At the other end, Toronto received goals from Mikhail Grabovski, Phil Kessel and Kris Versteeg, as the Leafs won their second consecutive game after an eight-game losing streak.
New Jersey goaltender Martin Brodeur left the game with an apparent injury after the second period.
“I know what he’s made of,” Leafs coach Ron Wilson said of Gustavsson. “We expect quality goaltending from him.”
The Leafs are hoping that Gustavsson will use this opportunity to show he is ready for a bigger workload.
“There’s nothing wrong with that,” Wilson said of Gustavsson’s desire to steal the starting job.
“Here he’s going to play basically every game until Jiggy gets back. And maybe this will be his chance to establish himself as the No. 1 goalie.”