After James Reimer’s disappointing performance on Saturday night in Winnipeg, there is no longer any doubt about who is Toronto’s #1 goaltender. While Jonathan Bernier has been steady, it’s been the porous play of Reimer as of late that has solidified the starting role for Bernier.
There’s been a gradual decline in Reimer’s play since November 23rd. James got off to a great start to the season and was near the top of the league in save percentage and goals against average through the first seven weeks of the season. After allowing a season-high 6 goals against vs. the Columbus Blue Jackets on November 25th, things started to unravel for Reimer.
Since the final week of November, Reimer has stopped just 334 of the 380 shots he’s faced (SV% of .879) and is allowing an average of 4.15 goals-against per game. While the statistics are certainly disappointing, they don’t tell the whole story. Reimer appears to be questioning himself, fighting pucks and rebounds, and generally lacking confidence on what should be routine saves. There’s been a whole lot of pressure on his shoulders since Toronto’s disappointing collapse in Game 7 against Boston and that pressure was compounded with the offseason move to bring Bernier into the fold. What was once shaping up to be a season-long battle over the net has now turned to a question of whether or not Reimer will last his scheduled starts without being pulled in favour of Bernier.
The role and success of the back-up goaltender has never been more important than in this Olympic-year compressed schedule. Whether Reimer is playing well or not, he is going to get his fair share of starts due to the high number of back-to-back games and busy weeks. James Reimer may no longer be Toronto’s #1 goaltender but they desperately need him to improve in his newfound role as their #2.
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