Toronto Maple Leafs: James Reimer Rises Again: Lord Stanley Awaits

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Toronto Maple Leafs: James Reimer Rises Again: Lord Stanley Awaits
Jana Chytilova/Freestyle Photography/Getty Images
Reimer in the office

James Reimer first three games are looking more and more like he isn't a one season wonder and is skipping over the "Sophomore Jinx". Goaltenders have more impact on the teams outcome than any other player and Reimer is looking like he is going to rise again to the Optimus title. 

As Brian Burke often says a quality team is built from the net out. And simply put a few fractions of percent makes a big overall difference in how a team fairs in a long season. Its easy to state but there are only a few points between 7th and 10th in both divisions. Between making it to the big show or merely skating around the ice for six months to go play golf.

Every team's goal is the playoffs and then the Stanley Cup. And the overall skill level and ultimately save percentage of your starting goalie has more impact on your chances than any other statistic in hockey. A starting goalie gets about 1700 shots a year so each decrease in a thousandth of the save percentile results in another 1.7 goals against or the difference between winning and losing a game. A few save percentile helps deliver the playoff berth and ultimately the Stanley Cup. 

Reimer really looked super in his first game against Buffalo. Although he came away with the loss he only let in 2 goals. The second game in Philadelphia he had a few soft goals in a 4-0 Loss. What makes us believe in the Reim is his reaction after the game "the onus is on me, and I have to make 4 more saves". 

The "Optimus Reim" attitude of holding himself accountable to making saves and crediting his team whenever they win.  

But after the second game myself and I am sure all of Leafs Nation tried to put it in the back of our minds that the few soft ones was just warm up jitters and that the Reimer of old would soon return with a vengeance and he would dominate and not become another vacillating goalie.  

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Last Night in Ottawa Reimer was back to his old form early making several brilliant saves early in the first period. A couple of serious errors by the defense and Reimer suddenly looks very average. 

The first goal Luke Schenn is looking at the puck when Mika Zibanejad skates in behind him and taps a rebound out of mid-air for the first goal. The second goal could of been the back breaker as it came along 1:33 later where Smith was allowed to skate through the middle of the slot and fire a puck over an unbalanced Reimer. 

The third goal was a nasty everyone laying on the ice and the goalie and the puck eventually being slammed over the line while Reimer is being held down by a senator and a team mate. I can't wait to see the video on that one I am sure Reims will say "I was just laying there looking over trying to find a way to move my hands, but two guys were holding me down, I have to be able to get those..." 

What makes a great goalie great is he is always in the here and now. The defense let people skate through the slot and take free shots. Ok. Gotta get those more often. 

Yesterday's goals don't matter and tomorrow's wins are hypothetical. All the great goalies can play is shot-by-shot, period-by-period hockey. And James Reimer is clearly in the here and now. 

The goals in the first period were goals he couldn't do anything about. During the second and third his rebound control was excellent and he made his last twenty saves look routine. 

Reimer comes back and makes 30 saves overall in the 5-3 win over Ottawa including several brilliant saves made to look routine by the return of Optimus Reim. If he is able to hold anywhere near last years save percentage the Leafs should have an excellent shot at playing hockey in May instead of the back nine. 

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