Jonas Gustavsson: Is The Monster Back?

November 1st, 2011 1 Comment

Heading into the 2011-12 season, plenty of questions surrounded Toronto Maple Leafs backup goaltender Jonas Gustavsson.

Having fought through a change in his goaltending style from stand up to butterfly goaltender, two heart ailments and the death of both of his parents, Gustavsson can be excused for his 22-28-11 record over his first two seasons with the Maple Leafs.

Gustavsson went 16-15-9 in his first season with the Buds. His 2.87 goals against average and .902 save percentage stand as his career best, at least thus far.

Gus followed his 2009-10 season up with a trying 2010-11 season in which he posted a 6-13-2 record to go along with a paltry 3.29 goals against average and .890 save percentage.

In his first start of the 2011-12 season Gustavsson got shelled for six goals on 46 shots, which equated to a horrendous .860 save percentage.

Given how rusty Gustavsson was coming into the game and the fact that the Maple were playing the defending Stanley Cup Champion Boston Bruins, Gustavsson could be forgiven for his poor start. That said, given the high expectations the fans of the Blue and White have for their beloved Maple Leafs this season, hard luck and poor play will only be tolerated for so long.

Gustavsson followed up his first start of the season with a win, but his 15 saves on 18 shots was less than impressive. All three of the goals against came five-on-five and, despite a few nice saves, Gustavsson was just average against the Montreal Canadiens that night.

Nevertheless, Gus got the win, but he would have to be better to earn his next ‘W’.

A solid effort against the New York Rangers saw Gustavsson make 28 saves on 30 shots—perhaps the best effort of his three year tenure with the Maple Leafs.

It’s not often New York Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist gets outplayed, on this evening Gustavsson showed up his fellow Swedish goaltender.

Gustavsson followed up his victory against the Rangers with a solid win against the Pittsburgh Penguins, posting his first back-to-back victories since March 25th and 27th, 2010, against the Atlanta Thrashers and New York Rangers.

A bad goal in which Gustavsson was caught out of position contributed to a loss against the Ottawa Senators, but Gustavsson did keep the Maple Leafs in the game, making 27 saves on 30 shots.

When you add it all up, Gustavsson’s season has been very inconsistent, culminating in a 3-3 record, 3.72 goals against average and .888 save percentage.

As good as Gustavsson has been, he has hardly been a “Monster”—a moniker that has followed him to the NHL from Sweden.

So, the question remains—will the “monster” ever be back?

The better question is probably “did the monster ever arrive”?

Sure, the nickname followed Gustavsson over, but outside of a very hot streak back in 2009-10 in which he won seven straight games (March 6th, 2010 through March 27th, 2010), there have been few games to cheer about when Gustavsson has been between the pipes.

Fact is, Gustavsson has been very average in his short tenure with the Buds. The statistics back it up, as does the fact that Gustavsson has given up four or more goals in 21 of his 71 career NHL games.

As much as the Leafs Nation wants to believe in Gustavsson, he has a long way to go before we can anoint him a serious NHL goaltender.

Currently in the last year of his two-year, $2.7 million contract, many believe that Gustavsson will have to have a career year if he expects to be retained as the Maple Leafs backup.

With talents like Ben Scrivens and Jussi Rynnas breathing down his neck and a desire by the Maple Leafs organization to make a consistent run at a playoff spot, the Toronto Maple Leafs organization can ill-afford to take chances with their backup goaltender; especially when you consider the recent injury status of starter James Reimer, who has been suffering from concussion-like symptoms for about a week now.

Everyone can sympathize with Gustavsson’s loses, we all share a measure of understanding where Gustavsson’s injury woes are concerned, and we all love having a goalie who was once called the best goaltender not playing in the NHL in the fold. What we can’t afford to do is fall in love with a goaltender who’s game is more frightening than his nickname on occasion.

Is the “monster” back? Sure is…all that remains to be seen is which one?

Until next time,

Peace!

1 Comment

  1. MarkRitter says:

    Man, is Gus ever struggling!

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