Despite giving up two goals to a Finnish flash (Fellow countryman Saku Koivu), Finland’s Hannu Toivonen played an outstanding game in net for the Boston Bruins last night. The big goalie, again clad in his best impersonation of Denis Lemieux’s (think Slap Shot the movie) gear and mask, kept the B’s in the game for all 60-minutes and only allowed the two goals to the Montreal captain.
It was a darn good sign.
Hannu’s trademark acrobatics were working.
His agility was on display.
Toivo’s technique was good.
And although the Habs continued to test his glove hand, Toivonen denied all but two of the 30 shots that the Canadiens sent towards the Boston net.
Speaking to NESN’s Rob Simpson after the game, Toivonen seemed characteristically displeased with the result -- he always takes too much blame on himself -- but contrary to earlier in the season, the young goalie clearly competed with the opposition (not himself or the puck) on Tuesday.
Most importantly, there were no apparent internal battles (or lack of confidence, for that matter) displayed by the big netminder and the only ghosts the phenom faced on Tuesday were those of the Habs variety.
As a sort of exclamation point, he looked into the camera for a moment and said to Rob, "We just have to look at (tape) tomorrow, and figure out what to do better."
In short, he just looked like the brash young athlete who wowed fans and management last season when he played 20 games for the Black & Gold and was one of the hottest young goaltending prospects in the entire NHL before hurting his ankle on January 5, 2006.
Starting 19 contests during the last campaign, Toivonen was 9-5-4 with a 2.63 GAA and a .914 SV%. All told, over an entire campaign, those stats would have put the 22-year old keeper in good statistical company had he been able to recover his form this season after missing the B’s final 41 contests last year.
But after being penciled in as a possible go-to guy for Boston, perhaps because of the long layoff, even he would admit that he was not where he wanted to be, hockey wise, for most of this season.
Returning to Providence, where he had seen some terrific success in the past, Toivonen slowly turned his season around and in 23 games with the Baby B’s, Toivonen had a 11-12-0 record.
But more importantly, Toivonen garnered a terrific 2.36 GAA and .908 save percentage.
And looking at his stats after his most recent trip to Rhode Island, it is clear that Toivonen (which translates to ’hope’ or ’anticipation’ in Finnish) continued to show marked improvement. His March totals were 7-6-0 with a 2.15 and a .915, speaking to a true 360-degree about face.
For his part, still speaking to Simpson post game, Hannu said, "It’s disappointing to lose, you know? It’s no fun."
But the truth of the matter was that Toivo looked like he was having fun.
There he was again, in the NHL, making save after save, and single handedly keeping the B’s in the contest.
Stephen Harris of the Boston Herald had similar sentiments, and this morning wrote, "The key for Hannu Toivonen was simply going out and having fun…This showing, and his expected start in Buffalo tomorrow night, may have an enormous impact on Toivonen’s future as a Bruin and an NHL goaltender.
And if you needed a reason to flip over to the Boston vs. Buffalo game on Thursday night, Toivonen just gave it to you. Good luck Hannu. New England and Finland are rooting for you!