Normally, when a team loses both it’s starting goaltender and it’s backup goaltender, it’s a sign that the team is about to experience a serious drop-off in ability between the pipes.
Arguably, the Toronto Maple Leafs are about to experience an upgrade.
That’s not to say that they aren’t deeply concerned about Jonas Gustavsson‘s heart condition, a previously undetected malady that showed up in training camp. That’s also not to say that the Leafs wouldn’t prefer if Vesa Toskala‘s lingering injuries would just go away and not come back. These are, after all, the players they signed to fill the goaltending slots on their team.
None of that changes the fact that neither goaltender has performed any better than we would expect the Leafs’ third-stringer, unheralded free-agent signing Joey MacDonald, to perform. After all, last year MacDonald wasn’t a third-stringer, he was the defacto starter for the miserable New York Islanders. He played 49 NHL games last season, and on a team with a fairly lousy defence corps (headlined by Brendan Witt‘s minus-34) he managed to post a .901 SV%. Odd as it may seem, that .901 SV% is a better number than either of the Leaf’s first two options on the depth chart have put up.
It’s a number just slightly ahead of the highly touted Gustavsson, who currently sports a .900 SV%. It’s a number well ahead of what Toskala (the team’s ostensible starter) managed last year (.891) and it’s miles better than what the injury-riddled keeper has managed this year (.865). In fact, assuming that MacDonald had started in place of Toskala and posted his numbers from last season, it would have saved the Leafs nine goals – almost one goal per game! I’d go so far as to suggest that those nine goals might have translated into a win or two for the Blue and White.
That’s not to say that MacDonald’s a world-beater. But the fact of the matter is that the Leafs’ goaltending has been so bad – particularly with Toskala in net – that even a marginal NHLer like MacDonald could represent a significant upgrade. Right now the word is that Toskala could be good to start as soon as Saturday; for the life of me, though I can’t figure out what the rush is. If Toskala’s fully recovered, perhaps he can start to play at a level that will make it worthwhile to have him in net, but if he’s proven anything so far this season it’s that he can’t get the job done if he’s at less than 100%.