Toronto Maple Leafs: James Reimer to the Rescue?


Toronto Maple Leafs: James Reimer to the Rescue?

The chances are very good that James Reimer will make his season debut tonight as the Toronto Maple Leafs visit the New York Rangers for some rare, late-Sunday night action.

Jonathan Bernier has started in Toronto’s first two games of the season and it hasn’t been pretty. From a puck deflecting off Stuart Percy‘s skate into the net to captain Dion Phaneuf blocking Bernier’s view, things haven’t been easy for the team’s top goaltender.

Oct 11, 2014; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Maple Leafs goalie Jonathan Bernier (45) tries to control a rebound after making a save against the Pittsburgh Penguins at Air Canada Centre. The Penguins beat the Maple Leafs 5-2. Mandatory Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports

He’s allowed nine goals across those two starts. At the moment, his save percentage stands at .877 and goals against average at 4.54. These numbers are certain to improve over the course of the season and it’s really too early to worry about them, but they do underscore how horrible the Leafs’ season has started.

We got three glimpses of the quickly building tension in Leafs Nation last night – Phil Kessel‘s freak out in the penalty box, Bernier’s one-on-one conversation with Phaneuf about defensive acumen and a disgruntled fan tossing his jersey onto the ice just two games into the new season.

“When a fan does that, they’re frustrated, as we are,” Phaneuf told the media afterwards. “We do not like to put forth the effort we did [tonight] on any night, especially in front of our fans. We take responsibility for not giving them what they want. They want to see wins, as do we.”

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(That’s pretty bad, but it could’ve been worse. An Edmonton Oilers fan felt obligated to toss his jersey onto the ice one game into the new season. I guess some people are simply impatient.)

This is the type of hotbed Reimer will enter tonight – the Leafs appear in a bit of internal disarray, they’re at risk of quickly falling behind in the standings and the fans back home are turning restless – if he gets the start. A strong performance could secure him some more playing time as the Leafs search for quick solutions to get themselves back on the right track.

Sep 26, 2014; Buffalo, NY, USA; Toronto Maple Leafs goalie James Reimer (34) during the game against the Buffalo Sabres at First Niagara Center. Leafs beat the Sabres 6-4. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports

If you recall the 2010-2011 season, this is how James Reimer first endeared himself to us: he salvaged a broken season and took us to the brink of the playoffs when Jonas Gustavsson and Jean-Sebastien Giguere couldn’t get the job done.

On the other hand, a weak performance from Reimer will only compound the Leafs’ current woes and turn things back to Bernier, who hasn’t looked very sharp so far this season. The Leafs play the Colorado Avalanche and Detroit Red Wings twice in the week ahead – two very strong teams who could very easily extend the Leafs’ current losing ways.

I know: it’s early and things are bound to change, but things are also at risk of quickly unfolding to the point where the Leafs become an afterthought one month into the new season. It’s like watching the 2013 Toronto Blue Jays all over again.

Follow me on Twitter for regular posts about sports (especially the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Toronto Blue Jays), politics and other news topics: @williamefwilson