The High Glove

In Hockey on November 27, 2009 at 1:06 am

On the 23rd, the Toronto Maple Leafs managed to fire an incredible 61 shots on New York Islanders goaltender Dwayne Roloson, only scoring thrice. Roloson made some excellent saves and was full value for the 1st star he received on the night.

And yet…and yet there was the feeling in the Toronto media that the Leafs made it easy on him. After all, that was not the first time they had outshot their opponents (and by a healthy margin) yet failed to score often enough to win. Less than two weeks previously (the 14th), the Buds outshot the Flames at home 40-22, yet were defeated 5-2.

As the title of this post suggests, this is about the glove. The goalie’s glove, that is. Before we leave Roloson, check out his quick hand at 9:47 of the 3rd period, locating a snap shot by Phil Kessel to keep the game tied at 3.

And then look at each one of the three goals scored by the Islanders off beleagured Leaf goalie Vesa Toskala. Before bowing out “due to a sore groin”, Toskala surrendered 3 goals on 3 shots midway through the second period. Each goal allowed eluded Vesa to his glove side. Generally high to his glove side. He looked like a left fielder forced to play shortstop.

The next day, on Hockey Central, Nick Kypreos stated, point-blank, the Toskala does not have an NHL glove. During the game itself, the home-team announcers speculated that the Isles skaters were given the Toskala scouting report – shoot it to his glove side.

So is it true? Toskala has appeared in 10 games so far this year, and while his next appearance is clouded in doubt (he was placed on the IR after the game, he has already surrendered 35 goals.

Watching Toskala, this amateur scout noted his lack of size relative to the modern goalie as well as his tendency to play deep in his crease (to give himself more reaction time?). So I sat in front of the computer and re-lived the worst moments of the growing Leafs’ season. I replayed all of the goals Vesa has allowed. It was shocking to see how few of them truly seemed like great shots. Maybe 2. In contrast, 10 goals were scored to his glove side, mostly high. This doesn’t count shoot-out goals. Eight more goals were scored off rebounds Toskala directed right at an opposing player. Throw in the cross-crease feed he redirected into the net, we have 19 relatively weak goals.

Here’s the full total:

Nov 23 ’09 NYI @ TOR – 3 – high glove, glove side, high glove
Nov 21 ’09 WSH @ TOR – 1 – stick side
Nov 17 ’09 TOR @ OTT – 3 – glove low, tip in, stick side
Nov 14 ’09 CGY @ TOR – 2 – stick side low, rebound
Nov 13 ’09 TOR @ CHI – 3 – high glove, stick side, tip in
Oct 31 ’09 TOR @ MTL – 4 – deflected pass off himself, rebound, deflection, off goal stick
Oct 12 ’09 TOR @ NYR – 7 – rebound, above head, glove, fivehole on rebound, rebound, high glove, rebound
Oct 10 ’09 PIT @ TOR – 5 – high glove, five hole, rebound, tip, high glove
Oct 03 ’09 TOR @ WSH – 3 – five hole, rebound, breakaway deke
Oct 01 ’09 MTL @ TOR – 4 – down early, stuff low, tip, high glove

Like an old slugger has to cheat to hit sliders, Toskala has been cheating to give himself more reaction time. Unfortunately, this created more room around the crease for opposing skaters to stake goalmouth real estate. Toskala, as is, cannot contribute at the NHL level, definitely not on a regular basis.

And now to speculate on why the Leafs can take so many shots on the other goalie and not score…

In practice, the are shooting on none other than Vesa Toskala (and Jonas Gustavsson, to be fair). When shooting on Vesa in practice, it is taking less to score than it would on other goalies. So they don’t practice picking their spots as much as they might have to otherwise. So when the game arrives, they fire away, and if they are in the vicinity of the net, are not making the goalie overly exert himself to keep the puck out of the net.

In the Israeli army, we said, “Difficult in practice, easy in action” (sounds way better in Hebrew). For the Leafs, it seems to be the reverse. Too easy in practice, nearly impossible in action. The Leafs would be better off releasing Toskala.

  1. […] a wicked backhand, but was one of the main culprits in the Leafs’ reliance on the perimeter game. Toskala, Blake and Mayers will not be missed at all. ▶ No Responses /* 0) { […]

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