The One Game To Rule Them All

Vesa Toskala and his fellowship of the underachievers will be entering Saturday night’s game with the pressure of Leafs Nation bearing down on their shoulders.

If the Finnish netminder is expecting the Toronto Maple Leafs’ fanbase to support him from the onset, he’s in for quite the surprise. After 24-year-old rookie Jonas Gustavsson provided the Leafs with its first display of actual goaltending, it’s hard to imagine how many fans remain who are willing to give Toskala the benefit of the doubt—again.

I may be setting myself up for an epic failure, but I’m willing to give Toskala one last shot before hopping aboard “the Monster” bandwagon.

Before you scoff, hear me out.

I got two words for you (and no, it’s not “Suck It!”): Sidney Crosby

Crosby has 3 points in 4 games entering Saturday night’s match-up. Not bad, but he can do a lot better—and I put strong emphasis on A LOT. Last night the Pittsburgh Penguins defeated the Philadelphia Flyers 5-4 in overtime, and guess who didn’t record a single point? Yup, you guessed it. The perennial superstar is not prone to producing zero points even in a two-game stretch, so he’ll firing on all cylinders. If you listen carefully, you can almost hear the gentle sobbing of the soft-spoken Toskala.

Simply put, tomorrow night will serve as the ultimate test for Toskala, who is quickly becoming the whooping boy of the Leafs. If he manages to shut down the Pens’ high-octane offense—not to mention Sidney Crosby exclusively—he will undoubtedly, at the very least, gain a smidgen of trust from Leafs fans. And that’s a start for a goaltender who has been abysmal to mediocre during the past year.

While Gustavsson’s groin injury has probably got Toskala choir singing in the shower, he shouldn’t feel too secure with goaltender Joey MacDonald breathing down his neck. Macdonald isn’t a starting goaltender in the National Hockey League, but he did manage to post a save percentage above .900 on the New York Islanders last season—yeah, and we all thought it was impossible. Also, he was quite impressive in his limited time with the Leafs during pre-season.

Should Toskala falter against the Pens, it is likely Macdonald will get the nod against the New York Rangers on Monday. But if he manages to play his first good game in God knows how long, he’ll have the chance to play in three consecutive games in a four day span—the third team being the Colorado Avalanche on Tuesday.

All this to say one simple thing: No more excuses for Toskala. It’s put up or shut up. All or nothing. Do or die. Whatever ridiculous saying you can come up with, apply it here.

Let’s see how Toskala responds.

Oh yeah, I almost forgot, that Evgeni Malkin guy is not bad either.