Toskala Era starts with a “W”

Brent Sutter’s netminder choice on Sunday afternoon shed some light on Darryl Sutter’s trade-deadline activity earlier this week.

There is growing speculation that Miikka Kirusoff has admitted to the club that he’s pooped after yet another busy National Hockey League season as well as his intense Olympic assignment for bronze-winning Finland, which helps partially explains why veteran Vesa Toskala became a Flame on Wednesday and why he was making his Calgary debut in an important stretch-run game in something other than a back-to-back situation Sunday in St. Paul, Minn.

The rusty Toskala boxed the puck at times against Minny but he he was solid enough to help the Flames knock off the Wild 5-2. It was Calgary’s first victory in four tries against Minnesota this season.

The Flames provided their new netminder with the hockey equivalent of a couple of sedative pills by scoring twice in the contest’s first three minutes.

First, Rene Bourque scored his 19th goal of the season just 19 seconds after the opening faceoff. Then it was Mark Giordano picking an open corner of the net to make it two-zip for the guests.

That early bulge and some wayward shooting by the Wildmen allowed Toskala to get his bearings in his first game action since January. The ex-Shark made 26 stops to pick up his first win since he blanked Philadelphia on Jan. 14 as a member of the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Thanks to a couple of goals from Guillaume Latendresse, the Wild hung around all day but could never completely overcome the early deficit.

Wild-killer Jarome Iginla, with a hat trick, and Mark Giordano also scored for the Flames, who win back-to-back games for only the second time since Jan. 5. Iginla’s outburst gives him his ninth straight 30-goal season.

Steve Staios picked up his first assist as a Flame as it was his smart shot/pass that was redirected by Bourque for the ice-breaking goal. Later, he nearly scored a goal on the business end of a two-on-one rush with Iginla. On the flip side, he (and partner Jay Bouwmeester) has been on the ice for all three of the even-strength goals Calgary has given up in the past two games.

Now comes to the question: Who’s crankier about the questionable disallowed Patrick Kane goal earlier in the day that turned the tide of a Chicago-Detroit match in favour of the Red Wings, the club Calgary is chasing for the eighth and final playoff spot in the West — Blackhawks fans or Flames fans?

Flames lines


Defence pairings


Three Stars

  1. Jarome Iginla
  2. Rene Bourque
  3. Brent Burns

Fight Card

With Derek Boogaard getting an unpaid holiday courtesy of the Colin Campbell Travel Agency, all was quiet in the fisticuffs department Sunday.

The Big Save

Vesa Toskala did an excellent job going post to post during a second-period Wild power play to get a pad on Minnesota defenceman Marek Zidlicky’s shot. Zidlicky, who did Toskala a favour by keeping the original shot low, was also foiled on the rebound.

The Big Hit

Big, maybe, but not so smart. Minnesota winger Owen Nolan’s brain-cramp move to knock down Niklas Hagman down in the neutral zone gave the Flames a two-man advantage in the third period and permitted Jarome Iginla to fire an insurance goal.

What It Means

For the second time over the extended weekend, the Flames (32-24-9) needed a victory to remain close behind Detroit after a Red Wings win earlier in the day. For the second time, they got it.

What’s Next

A crucial scrap at the Joe Louis Arena on Tuesday evening as the ninth-place Flames visit Darren Helm the eighth-place Red Wings.

  • At this point the best Calgary can hope for is to somehow get into 6th spot in the west. It is a bit of a daunting task although they are 7 points behind Colorado and play them twice more. If they can get this little winning streak going for a while I do think it is possible. By making it to 6th they can take on Vancouver; honestly thats a match up I do like. Calgary is a better team now in comparison to all those games they beat them earlier in the season (Lu looks pretty mediocre too!). Think of how sweet it would be shut them all up. A team that is so arrogant even though theyve been to the finals 2 times in their existance and the only Hall of Famer I can honestly think of who ever played on that team is Messier; he wasnt good on that team either.

    On a side note, If they can get rid of Kotalik and Sarich in the off season I would be much happier. I dont like Staios but hes cheaper than Sarich and still looked slightly better out there playing harder opponents. I do hope they resign some of the components of this team for next year (i.e. Higgins). I really am curious about how effective this team can be when put out for a full season. Its early but Toskala signed for about 1 to 1.5 mill might be one of the better back ups available too. they need someone who can play 20 games to keep kipper rested.

    • I agree with your point on Lou. Even as the starter for team Canada, he didn't look convincing. Sure, he made some big saves and finally won the big game but it was with an all-star line up. He still looked a bit shaky and certainly not unbeatable. I wouldn't mind meeting Van in the first round.

  • Its early but Toskala signed for about 1 to 1.5 mill might be one of the better back ups available too. they need someone who can play 20 games to keep kipper rested.

    Here's a list of available UFA goalies this summer. Guys I would prefer to sign:

    Dan Ellis, Johan Hedberg, Antero Niittymaki, Curtis Sanford, Brent Johnson, Alex Auld, Michael Leighton

    And I'm betting you'll get one of them for less than $1M.

    • Dan Ellis is a pretty good goalie and undoubtedly better although I dont think he would come to calgary or play or less than $1 mill. If he was willing to do that why would he leave Nashville where he will surely get more ice time.

      I was a big proponent of getting nittymaki last season as well if you recall although it seemed unfeasible as well.

      I fail to see the attractiveness of the others listed (maybe Auld although still not sure).

      • The attractiveness of the others listed are they have all had better SV% than Toskala the last few years. I know people like to point to the Leafs skaters and say they were the cause of his struggles, but the truth is, Toskala was by far the worst puck stopper on the team this year:

        2009-10 overall save rate:
        Toskala – .874 SV%

        Gustavsson – .899 SV%
        Giguere – .917 SV%
        McDonald – .892 SV%

        2009-10 even strength save rate:

        Toskala – .898 ES SV%

        Gustavsson – .908 ES SV%
        Giguere – .926 ES SV%
        McDonald – .924 ES SV%

        His team has been bad. But he's clearly also been part of the problem.

  • Toskala is awful. His EVSV% still doesn't break 9 in 10 which for a goalie who's been in the league for a good while is just awful. I mean he could be an upgrade to McElhinney but the opportunity cost of that move was getting an actual backup in the Biron mold. Sigh.

    Plus Toskala, man his game is just awful. He lost the weak side on over half of the scoring chances yesterday, he and the Flames got lucky that there were so many shots wide or deflected wide.