Toronto Maple Leafs: 10 Storylines to Follow This Seasons

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Can James Reimer Continue his Strong Play?

This has to be the biggest story so far this season for the Toronto Maple Leafs. Jonathan Bernier was named the starting goaltender on opening day by Mike Babcock only to have James Reimer outplay him and take the job from him.

Reimer’s strong play this season has brought back great memories from when he arrived with the Leafs during the 2012-13 lockout shortened season.  In 15 games this season Reimer has a 7-3-4 record with a .934 sv%, which ranks third in the league, and a 2.07 GAA, which is good for seventh in the league.

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What is more impressive are the opponents that Reimer had to face over his dominating stretch in November. His first game came against the Dallas Stars who are one of the most dangerous offensive teams in the league, but Reimer only allowed one goal on 44 shots to give him a .977 sv% that night.

Then against the Winnipeg Jets Reimer allowed three goals on 33 shots with the Leafs losing 4-2. The next game was against the Detroit Red Wings who shutout the Leafs in their first meeting 4-0. Reimer let in a bad goal to start the game but was solid after that but the Leafs lost in overtime after no one could stop Jakub Kindl in the offensive zone.

Reimer then got the start on back-to-back nights against another tough opponent in the Washington Capitals. In that game the Leafs were able to not only hang with the Capitals, but also lead them until Niklas Backstrom was left wide open at the side of the net to tie the game late. The Capitals then won in a shootout.

After going 1-1-2 in his first four starts, Reimer settled in and helped the Leafs win five games in a row against the Stars (again), the Nashville Predators, the Vancouver Canucks, the Colorado Avalanche and the Carolina Hurricanes. In those five games Reimer’s save percentages were; .947%, .955%, .956%, .971%, .971%. He faced on average 34.8 shots per game and allowed only 14 goals during that five game stretch.

In a home-and-home against the Boston Bruins Reimer had a marvelous effort on the road in Boston coming off a shootout win the night before against the Hurricanes and had a sub par effort in his past start at home against the Bruins.

To put Reimer’s month of November in perspective, he only faced less than 25 shots twice in the 11 games he started. He also only allowed three power play goals, which would explain why the Leafs penalty kill improved drastically in the month of November.

There has been discussions regarding Reimer’s future in Toronto because he is a pending UFA this summer. Right now Reimer would definitely deserve a contract extension, but how much of a pay raise does he want and how long of a contract does he want.

He is currently being paid a salary of $2 million with a cap hit of $2.3 million so if the team does want to trade him then a lot of teams will come calling. The Leafs already have Bernier signed into next season at a $4.15 million cap hit, so a decision may have to be made on whether they keep Bernier or Reimer.

One option could be to sign Reimer to an extension and let Bernier’s contract play out or trade him because they have two young goalies in Antoine Bibeau and Garret Sparks who will be in conversation for the starters job at some point. However, with the way that Reimer has played he certainly deserves the chance to prove how long he can keep playing to this level and go from there.

Next: Playoff Nation or Tank Nation?