James Reimer: the recent reality check for Leafs’ goalie is no reason to worry about Optimus Reim

James Reimer: the recent reality check for Leafs’ goalie is no reason to worry about Optimus Reim

James Reimer in his Marlies days (Image: b.m.a.n, from the Toronto Life Flickr pool)

In the wake of Monday’s 6-2 drubbing by the Tampa Bay Lightning, Toronto Maple Leafs head coach Ron Wilson admitted that rookie goaltender James Reimer looked “tired.” Though fatigue is usually a poor excuse for a poor performance—athletes are, after all, paid big bucks to be fit—the 23-year-old has good reason to be feeling a bit worn out. Reimer has almost single-handedly pushed the Leafs into contention for the eighth playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, and he has done so in his first season in the NHL. Yet despite the recent shelling and a spot on the bench for tonight’s tilt with the Carolina Hurricanes, there’s no reason to feel anything but optimism about Reimer’s prospects between the pipes.

That the Leafs’ playoff fortunes have been rising and falling with Reimer’s play and that he didn’t completely collapse under the pressure bodes well for the young goalie’s future. He handled the immense weight that comes with being a goaltender at hockey’s highest level with aplomb and confidence, and sparked an improbable run at the post-season that nobody would’ve thought even remotely likely just a few months ago.

Now that the run is essentially over—Toronto needs to finish the season on a 10-2-0 tear to hit the 90-point mark, the consensus magic number to qualify for the playoffs—Reimer’s play can be judged on its own merits. In that regard, his performance speaks for itself. After getting called up to the big leagues, Optimus Reim had a terrific 9-4-2 record, with a 2.13 goals-against average and a .934 save percentage. Had he played enough games, those numbers would’ve put him amongst the league leaders in all the most significant statistical categories.

In his past 10 starts, his stats are much more average—3.59 goals against, a .895 save percentage and only four wins—but goalies tend to be a streaky bunch at the best of times. As the National Post pointed out, Reimer is ridiculously tired (starting every game for the Leafs dating back to February 12), other teams have done some scouting on him and the Leafs had a tough schedule down the stretch. Plus, he was backstopping the Leafs, lest we forget.

Reimer is so much more than lightning in a bottle. He’s what is commonly referred to as “developing.” Had he not hit such highs already, the lows wouldn’t seem nearly as low. This season might as well be over—it’s time to look to the future. And Reimer, no doubt, will be a big part of that.

• Leafs take a beating from Lightning [Toronto Star]
• Lightning shell Reimer and Leafs [Globe and Mail]
• Reimer story is far from finished [Globe and Mail]
• What happened to James Reimer [National Post]