Let’s be clear. Friday night’s Leafs loss to Detroit wasn’t all on goaltender James Reimer.
The affable netminder placed his team in a position to not only salvage the point they earned, but possibly come away with a victory. After giving up early, bad, goals in games on Monday versus Dallas, and Wednesday against Winnipeg, Reimer found an early groove. He made a tough save of Gustav Nyqvist just over two minutes from the opening faceoff.
Then, for good measure, Reimer foiled Nyqvist again in overtime, with an unbelievable stop with his glove hand on the goal line, preventing the puck from entering the net from the side as the keeper was out of position.
Indeed when the Toronto power play goes 0-for-4, including failing to convert a 5-on-3, and when the forwards overextend their shifts during 3-on-3 overtime – resulting in the winning goal – the burden of defeat can’t be placed solely on the shoulders of the man between the pipes.
However, it’s also clear that any progress made in the Leafs rebuild won’t be made with the Morweena, Manitoba native as the starter. Reimer is struggling to retain the label of the bona fide starter on his own team, let alone establish himself as a true number one.
Last night, Reimer completed an unfortunate hat trick, allowing a shot from Henrik Zetterberg from just outside the blue line to elude him. It was the game’s opening goal, and – while his teammates would never decry their teammate – the deflation was evident. The miscue was the third in as many starts for Reimer, compounding the embarrassment of Jamie Benn’s stoppable shot on Monday (even though the Leafs won, in an otherwise stellar Reimer effort), and Dustin Byfuglien’s opening marker, a squeaker between the post and the pad, two days later.
Reimer is one of the most likable personalities on the team; always cordial to the media and to the fans. Offering criticism about his quality of play comes with a pang of guilt, just because – well, he’s so darned nice.
But, there’s no column in the NHL standings for congeniality.
The man wearing #34 who’ll make the miraculous saves also breaks your heart more than once in a while, if you’re a Leafs fan.
Now if Toronto had the firepower to offset Reimer’s flubs, and maybe score more than once or twice a game, these weaknesses wouldn’t be magnified as much.
As it is, the Leafs practically have to approach each game with the mindset of already being down a goal.
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