Toronto Maple Leafs: How James Reimer Injury Impacts Goaltending Plans in 2013

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Toronto Maple Leafs: How James Reimer Injury Impacts Goaltending Plans in 2013
Claus Andersen/Getty Images

Toronto Maple Leafs fans covered their eyes in horror on Monday night when they watched starting goaltender James Reimer suffer an injury (video below) against the Philadelphia Flyers that forced him to leave the game and not return.

 

UPDATE: Tuesday, February 12 at 3:13 p.m. ET by Nicholas Goss

The Leafs have confirmed that Reimer has a knee injury:

---End of Update---

 

Reimer battled whiplash and a concussion last year after a strong start to the 2011-12 season, and fans at the Air Canada Centre feared a repeat scenario was beginning to unfold on Monday.

Luckily for the Leafs, their goaltending plans for 2013 shouldn't change too much because the 24-year-old goaltender isn't expected to be out of the team's lineup for too long.

"Reimer's got a lower-body injury and we don't think it's that serious at this point. Shouldn't miss an extended period of time," said Leafs head coach Randy Carlyle (via NHL.com) after his team's 5-2 victory over the Flyers.

TSN's Darren Dreger has the latest injury report on Reimer from Tuesday.

The initial news on Reimer's injury is encouraging, which is good for the Leafs, because he has been solid this season with a 6-3 record, a .929 save percentage and a 2.31 GAA.

Losing him for a large portion of the season would be a huge blow to the team's chances of ending its seven-year playoff drought. Reimer is finally showing why he can be a productive No. 1 goaltender for the Leafs now, and well into the future.

His impressive play has likely helped to calm the rumors linking Vancouver Canucks goaltender Roberto Luongo to the Leafs that were discussed before, during and after the lockout.

After the latest collective bargaining agreement (CBA) was finalized, and teams that signed players to long-term, back-diving deals that essentially circumvented the salary cap during the previous agreement weren't going to be harshly punished, the Leafs chances of acquiring Luongo lessened.

Going into the season with Reimer as the No. 1 goalie and Ben Scrivens in the backup role was the best move that new general manager Dave Nonis could have made, and thus far, it has proven to be the right decision.

Scrivens replaced Reimer in Monday's matchup with the Flyers and stopped 32 of the 33 shots he faced in 36 minutes of play.

He will be the starter with Reimer injured, and the Leafs are fully capable of winning games with the 26-year-old between the pipes. Coming into a game cold against a desperate Flyers team and shutting the door for nearly two periods is impressive, but he has to be more consistent if Toronto is going to continue its ascent up the Eastern Conference standings.

Nonis does not have to explore the trade market for a veteran goaltender as long as Reimer isn't going to miss a large portion of the season.

The Leafs are on a season-high four-game winning streak and should not change any of their tactics at either end of the ice or the lines that are producing. Toronto is blocking shots, winning puck battles along the boards in the defensive zone and eliminating second and third chance opportunities in front of Reimer and Scrivens.

Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

If Carlyle's team continues to defend well, they will win games consistently, regardless who's starting in goal. For the first time in a few years, the Leafs are a tough team to play against because of the physicality and confidence they bring to the ice each game.

The only goalie move that should be made is to recall Jussi Rynnas from the Toronto Marlies to back up Scrivens while Reimer is unable to play. Rynnas has been inconsistent in the AHL this season with an 8-7-1 record, but he probably won't start any games for the Leafs unless Scrivens also suffers an injury or plays terribly and is pulled from net.

Unless Reimer is going to miss a lot of games with this lower-body injury, the Leafs should address the need for a backup at the NHL level from within the organization, and maybe sign a veteran for the Marlies if Rynnas is called up.

The Leafs don't need to trade for Luongo or sign a veteran like Dwayne Roloson. The Reimer/Scrivens duo is strong enough to help Toronto make the playoffs this season.

 

Nicholas Goss is an NHL Lead Writer at Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter.

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