Does Gustavsson Need a Vacation?

On November 22nd against the Dallas Stars Jonas Gustavsson stopped 21 of the 22 shots he faced to raise his season save percentage to 0.922. Since then he’s played six games without stopping 90% of the pucks he’s faced.

Here’s a graph of his game by game save percentage (the ‘X’s) and his overall save percentage for the season:

At game ‘6’ he took over the load with Giguere lost to a hip injury. He stopped six pucks in the third to hold onto the lead against the Nashville Predators. Two nights later Gustavsson stopped 29 out of 30 against the Devils before losing against Montreal despite stopping 37 of 39.

During that stretch Gustavsson was unreal. He made acrobatic saves, was big in the net and was infuriating opposing shooters. The only goals getting by him were tipped or cross crease passes where he was hung out to dry. 

Since then we’ve seen Gustavsson cool down considerably. In the Edmonton game, for instance, Eberle scored a goal that went through Gustavsson’s armpit. Taylor Hall put the puck far side high as Gustavsson got tripped up and slid out of position.

J.S. Giguere is probably done as an NHL goaltender. After last night he sits at an .890 save percentage and he’s playing like he’s beaten; he’s deep in his crease and down early. It means Giguere’s groin is still broken or he’s slowing down too much and retreating into his crease to avoid moving laterally.

Giguere is here to help Gustavsson though so he’s not Vesa Toskala despite his awful statline. It can take time for a young goalie to turn flashes of brilliance into sustained elite play. In that sense Gustavsson’s recent struggles are indicative of the Leafs’ struggles.

What some people see as inconsistent play could perhaps be better described as the growing pains a young team will go through in the NHL. That they don’t put in a good effort every night might be explained by pointing out that the Toronto Maple Leafs rely on a pretty good second line in Grabovski-Kulemin-MacArthur to carry the load every night and let their best scorer dangle in the wind without anyone to play with.

It’s rough watching the Leafs but don’t turn on the youth on this team. Kessel, Gustavsson, Schenn, Kadri. These are young kids that in other markets would be playing sheltered minutes out of the spotlight. In Toronto their options are to dominate the NHL or be derided as busts.

Gustavsson looks tired; he’s not ready to carry an NHL team on his back all season yet. He needs a veteran goalie to help him through the difficult times in an NHL season and to help shoulder the weight of the world. J.S. Giguere seems like a fine guy to do that for Toronto.