Leafs’ playoff hopes may rest with Reimer
TORONTO—James Reimer considered the possibility he had played his final game with the Toronto Maple Leafs.
The goalie, who was the Leafs’ starter not long ago, had lost five-straight games before handing over the reins when Jonathan Bernier returned from injury.
“That’s a plausible train of thought but you just never know.”
Reimer couldn’t possibly have predicted what happened last night, when Bernier fell awkwardly on his left leg and had to leave in the third period of the Leafs’ game against the Boston Bruins.
Or could he?
“I actually told my wife before I left for the rink today [Thursday] that I had a feeling I was going in,” the 26-year-old recalled.
“I didn’t know why.”
Reimer didn’t concern himself with why. All he worried about was winning, which he did by stopping 10 of the 11 shots he faced as Toronto won 4-3 in overtime.
Now it could be up to Reimer to keep the Leafs’ playoff hopes alive not long after he was made a scapegoat for an eight-game losing streak that just about tanked their season.
Winger Nazem Kadri, whose overtime goal allowed Reimer to smile last night, doesn’t want the blame to fall on him again.
“It seems like when the team does not so well, he’s the first guy that everyone hops all over, which really that shouldn’t be the case,” Kadri said.
“At that point when we were losing, the team in front of him just couldn’t bring it together and just couldn’t figure things out, and obviously the goalie’s left out there to dry by himself.
“We felt bad, and now it’s about time we have his back and step up to the plate,” he stressed.
Leafs’ coach Randy Carlyle said last night that Bernier was set to have an MRI.
He would not reveal if the goalie had aggravated a groin injury that made him miss five games, calling it only “lower-body.”
Amid the uncertainty, the Leafs were expected to recall goalie Drew MacIntyre from the AHL.
His agent confirmed via e-mail that he was returning to Toronto from Utica, N.Y., where the Marlies are set to play tonight.
MacIntyre has never started an NHL game and even though he made one appearance in relief while Bernier was out last month, Reimer figures to be the man in goal down the stretch.
If nothing else, Reimer learned something about himself from a tough stretch that saw him give up 18 goals on 139 shots in five-straight losses.
“Just to battle—battle adversity and stay positive,” Reimer said.
With that perspective, Reimer and the Leafs first must concern themselves with the Winnipeg Jets, who visit Air Canada Centre tomorrow night, before worrying about the Tampa Bay Lightning, Florida Panthers, and Ottawa Senators.