October 7, 2011

James Reimer: First Leafs’ Home-Opener Shutout Since 2000

Few rivalries in sports are as heated and rich in history as the ongoing feud between the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Montreal Canadiens, and October 6, 2011 added another win to the Leafs’ tally.

The goaltenders for the Leafs’ season opener at the Air Canada Centre were the young guns, and the future of NHL goaltending; James Reimer (TOR), and Carey Price (MTL).

While Price made a few excellent saves to keep the game close, his efforts were all for naught, as Montreal lost to Toronto 2-0. Price stopped 16 of 18 Toronto shots in the effort, and was the top performer on Montreal. Defenseman PK Subban also contributed to a strong showing by the Canadiens.

But the real story of the night was the man in the other goal crease, James Reimer. The 23 year-old netminder stopped all 32 Montreal shots for his first win, and shutout, of the season. The Leafs locked Reimer down this summer for the next few years, and he is already earning his keep.

Opening the season with a shutout was just what the Leafs needed to get behind their new number 1 goaltender. The last time the Toronto Maple Leafs opened their season at home with a shutout was in 2000, when Curtis Joseph blanked Habs.

Reimer stayed solid positionally throughout the entire 60 minutes, and showed exceptional athleticism during multiple scrambles in front of the net. His rebound control needed a little work, which would have eliminated the need for his athletic scrambles, but overall, his play to begin the season was statistically flawless.

Reimer, who is arguably the new franchise player on Toronto’s roster, must avoid the dreaded sophomore slump, or risk becoming another Steve Mason (CBJ), who won the Calder Trophy before putting up horrendous numbers that prevented the Blue Jackets from playing past mid-April. Stellar rookie seasons followed by dreadful careers are unfortunately common amongst National Hockey League goaltenders, and Reimer knows what it takes to keep performing at his peak.

The pressure is on the Morweena, MB native to help the Leafs reach the playoffs for the first time since the NHL lockout. Look to Reimer to step into some sort of leadership role throughout the season and influence the team’s confidence and momentum during each matchup. His ability to make huge saves at the right time makes him a game-changer.

Look for the Leafs to be serious contenders for the 8th playoff seed in the Eastern conference this season, and look to Reimer when dishing out credit.

Greg Summy

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