I had an epiphany of sorts last night while watching the Canadiens vs. Panthers game on TSN. What provoked this profound insight was the pre-game show, in which Glen Healy was asked, ‘Out of Florida, Toronto and Ottawa, who has a goal tending controversy?’. In a rare moment of brilliance, Healy responded by saying that the Toronto Maple Leafs were the only team out of the three who had an actual, bona fide goalie fueled conflict.
The Ottawa Senators have Martin Gerber, who is the declared starter until he has a lapse of sorts, and Florida has definitely designated Thomas Vokoun as their number one guy. However, in Toronto, both Toskala and Raycroft have been playing exceptionally well in a split schedule, although the statistics do not necessarily support this finding.
While Toskala’s numbers are markedly worse than Raycroft’s thus far in the season, one must also take into consideration the fact that Toskala has had to deal with more shots and a lot more defensive lapses, against better teams, than Raycroft has had to put up with so far. Nonetheless, these defensive lapses do exist and losses continue to pile up. Both goaltenders have sub-par records as of this point and I find myself constantly wondering who will start the next game. Such is the case on Thursday; Will it be Toskala or Raycroft (I will personally be at that game)?
Devilish thoughts continue to pollute my mind with regards to Paul Maurice’s coaching strategy, and I wonder, at times, if he has handled his goal tending situation properly. He has not allowed one of the two goaltenders to start a series of games in order to establish some kind of rhythm, and, although competition is necessary for the success of either goal tender, it seems as if both goalies have not received a reward (in playing time), even when they perform well. Losses, goals against and save percentage does not always divulge the entire story behind a game, and Maurice needs to allow one of these two goaltenders to establish some form of constancy (preferably Toskala). Declare a number one and 1B, instead of insisting that both of your goal tenders are of equal skill level.
I do understand that Toskala, as well as Raycroft, are both younger goaltenders in terms of NHL experience at the starting position. Similarly, I understand that neither goalie will be expected to start 60 or 70 games, and that the season must be divided along some lines. Nevertheless, these games should not be divided upon a game-by-game basis, but rather by a series of games, so that the players become comfortable with one another, and have an opportunity to showcase their skills and a sense of dependability. Realistically, if you want competition, allowing the goaltenders to play a large set of games will allow you to determine, not only if a goaltender is capable of being the official starter, but also, if they can be a true playoff performer.
Obviously, this is my personal opinion, and it is subject to criticism. My question to all of you is multi-pronged; Is there a goal tending controversy in Toronto?; How well do you think Maurice has handled it?; Who will start Thursday’s game? As always, I look forward to everyones input, positive or negative. Thank you very much.