Maple Leafs Decision Time: Could They Seriously Send James Reimer Down Now?
Something funny happened during the battle for the Maple Leafs starting goalie job between J.S. Giguere and Jonas Gustavsson heading into 2011.
Neither of them ended up between the pipes.
Instead, a 22-year-old AHL goalie who had never started an NHL game in his life has completely stolen the show.
He made his first career start on Jan. 1, and since then, James Reimer hasn't looked back. He's appeared in five of the past six games for the club and is a major reason why they currently find themselves on a four-game winning streak.
The Winnipeg native, who has bounced around between the WHL (Red Deer Rebels), ECHL (Reading Royals, South Carolina Stingrays) and the AHL (Toronto Marlies) since 2005, was called up to the Leafs when Giguere went down with his reoccurring groin injury.
It was expected he would simply sit on the bench and fill a roster spot, but after Gustavsson went through a less-than-impressive stretch of games, Ron Wilson decided to give him a chance.
And it would be fair to say, it's the best call Wilson has made all season.
Since that Jan. 1 start in Ottawa, Reimer is 4-1, with a ridiculous .947 SV% and 1.92 GAA. And it isn't just his numbers that are impressive, but the confidence he's instilled in the team in front of him.
The Leafs just look like a better team since he's been in the crease, although don't attribute Reimer's impressive stats all to improved play in front of him. He hasn't played a game yet where he's seen less than 30 shots against.
The Leafs on the season average 29.5 shots against per game. Since Reimer's been in net that number is 36.8, but the kid hasn't flinched one bit.
184 shots against, and he's allowed just 10 goals.
In the five games, his save totals are mind-boggling. Ottawa, 32 saves. Boston, 31. Atlanta, 41. Los Angeles, 30. San Jose, 40.
And those aren't teams with a bunch of bums shooting on him, either.
The penalty kill has also improved too, with the team killing off 16 of 17 times shorthanded with Reimer as the backstop. Just one goal allowed while shorthanded in his five games, that's something you cannot say with either of the other two Leaf goaltenders this season.
The team has moved up to 25th in the NHL in PK% since he stepped in. Break out the champagne.
The fact is, Reimer has been unbelievable for the Leafs thus far, and don't kid yourself, he's already done enough to prove he could be for real.
The question remains, with Giguere scheduled to be back in the lineup on Thursday against the Phoenix Coyotes, what happens with Reimer?
Giguere is 8-7-2 this season, with an .894 SV percentage and 2.80 GAA. His contract is up at the end of the season and he'll most likely be moving on from Toronto, but with Reimer playing this well, it might be sooner than expected that the veteran net minder is sent packing.
Well, that, or send down the hottest goalie in the NHL to the minors—a move that might cause a riot in Toronto that makes those from the G20 Summit look like the Santa Clause Parade.
They couldn't possibly send him down now, could they?
It's unknown what the Leafs' brass plans on doing with Reimer, but if Giguere is healthy and ready to go, they'll have to make a choice soon—like, before Thursday night.
It may seem like a tough decision for Burke and Co., but with the way Reimer is performing, he may have actually made the decision of who plays an easy one.
The tough part comes when deciding on what to do with everybody else.
Follow me on Twitter: @therealjonneely
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