by PuckStopsHere on 01/30/09 at 04:37 AM ET
Goaltending is extremely important in the NHL. It is very hard to win without good goaltending. Naturally, the team with the weakest goaltending in the NHL will be a weak team. So far this season, that team has been the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Usually, Vesa Toskala plays in goal for Toronto. Toskala has been a solid NHL goaltender in the past, but he hasn’t done it this season. Among goaltenders with enough games played to qualify for the individual stats, Toskala has the second worst saves percentage in the league (his .884 beats Chris Osgood’s .880). His 3.31 GAA is also second worst - but this time Johan Hedberg is the worst.
Toskala is having the worst season of his NHL career. Most likely, one would expect he could bounce back into form as an NHL goalie. In the meantime, Toronto is lacking in any other serious choice.
An aging Curtis Joseph has been the backup. He has appeared in 11 games and is sporting a .850 saves percentage and a 3.89 GAA. This is worse than Toskala and no longer NHL calibre numbers. It appears that his career is finally over. He maintains a job mostly due to reputation and contract status.
Justin Pogge is the man Toronto hopes is the goalie of the future. In two games he hasn’t been the answer. He has an .810 saves percentage and a 4.00 GAA (but those numbers are high mostly due to the fact one of his two games was a poor one). Pogge has played pretty well in the AHL, but not well enough to appear in their All Star Game. If he cannot be an AHL All Star, what are his chances at the NHL level?
There is reason to believe that Toronto’s goaltending numbers are a function of a poor team defence. They are a team that has Jeff Finger, Ian White and rookie Luke Schenn playing twenty minutes each in an average game. Their top defensive forwards are players like Dominic Moore and Jason Blake. Nobody would confuse them with Selke Trophy winners. It is a hard team to be the goaltender.
In fact, last season they ran former Calder Trophy winner Andrew Raycroft out of town when he couldn’t handle the load. In Colorado, Raycroft looks like he could steal the number one job away from Peter Budaj this year. His play looks much better now that he is out of Toronto.
Toronto’s biggest problem is goal prevention. They have a 3.53 goals against per game (which is second worst in the league behind Atlanta). A lot of the problem is that Vesa Toskala has played poorly this season. I think some of that blame goes to a weak team defence. Toronto would be advised not to throw away Toskala. He will probably bounce back into form - especially if the defence in front of him improves. However in the short term they would be advised to find an NHL capable backup to take some starts.
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