All eyes on the Monster

Jonas Gustavsson has made quite an impression here in Toronto so far, essentially rescuing the Leafs goaltending situation after returning from a groin injury. His save percentage is up to .918, he has a winning record and Toronto's on as much of a roll as you can be on after winning three out of seven games (3-0-4).

Tonight, the Monster will likely go head-to-head with Niklas Backstrom, which is the subject of my latest yarn at globesports.com. Along with Jonas Hiller, Antti Niemi and Erik Ersberg, Gustavsson and Backstrom are part of a new trend we're seeing postlockout where older free agent goalies from Europe are stepping in and winning NHL jobs (often without time in the minors).

One of the things I did for the piece was look back over the recent history of where goaltenders are coming from, and over the past decade, the number of Europeans in the crease has slowly but steadily risen. This season, as many as half of the starters in the league could be from overseas (depending on who ends up in the No. 1 role): 

Anaheim: Jonas Hiller
Atlanta: Ondrej Pavelec
Calgary: Miikka Kiprusoff
Chicago: Cristobal Huet
Edmonton: Nikolai Khabibulin
Florida: Tomas Vokoun
Minnesota: Niklas Backstrom
Montreal: Jaroslav Halak
Nashville: Pekka Rinne
N.Y. Rangers: Henrik Lundqvist
Phoenix: Ilya Bryzgalov
San Jose: Evgeni Nabokov
Tampa Bay: Antero Niittymaki
Toronto: Jonas Gustavsson
Washington: Semyon Varlamov

It used to be that Dominik Hasek and Arturs Irbe were anomalies in the crease, with their funny helmets and unique playing styles, but not anymore. And with Gustavsson's success so far, it'll be interesting to see if the demand for the latest great goalie in Sweden or Finland continues next summer.

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