March 20, 2011
Leafs fans regale ReimerHot goaltender heard cheers Saturday
By LANCE HORNBY, QMI Agency
TORONTO - In past years when fans at the Air Canada Centre became vocal about a Toronto goaltender, it usually wasn’t pleasant and included language not worth repeating.
However, there was a chant of “Reimer, Reimer” going up in the closing minutes of Toronto’s 5-2 win over Boston on Saturday.
It’s still too early to “build a statue” as coach Ron Wilson insists the media often does, but the coach can’t hide his relief at getting some consistent goalkeeping, which in turn makes him look better.
Reimer, with a string of 30-plus save performances in February and March and his second head-to-head win over Tim Thomas in a month, said he was turning a little red beneath his mask when the cheer went up Saturday.
“It’s unbelievable, it’s an honour,” he said. “Too many times we’ve had stinkers at home. It’s good to be on the other end. But having said that, the (fans) should have been chanting for our whole team. They played great in front of me, they cleared rebounds and Boston had pretty much no second chances.”
Captain Dion Phaneuf was happy for the kid, too.
“For him to hear that is great. He’s played really well for us,” Phaneuf said. “We had a great crowd tonight and lots of energy in the building.”
Reimer’s surname is easier to shout than his popular internet nickname Optimus Reim, a twist on Optimus Prime from the Transformers autobot entertainment franchise.
LUKE USES NO. 4 FORCE
The Leafs were in awe when defenceman Luke Schenn powered past the Bruins on a solo rush and beat Thomas by switching to his forehand at the last second. And wouldn’t you know the great rushing defenceman Bobby Orr was in the stands, too.
“I was talking to some people on the bench and wasn’t paying attention,” Wilson said. “I looked up and saw Luke in front of the net. It was obviously a great individual effort.”
Not only did Schenn score, as did another big defenceman, Keith Aulie, but Wilson praised blueliner Carl Gunnarsson’s effort on Nazem Kadri’s goal. Noting some Leafs are “allergic” to getting the puck deep at other times, Wilson pointed out Gunnarsson had backed up the Bruins’ defence up and was rewarded with an assist. Darryl Boyce also was singled out for taking a heavy hit and making it back to the net to screen for Kadri when the latter’s shot hit Boston’s Adam McQuaid for his first NHL goal.
BEAR TRAP FOILED
As they gradually took the lead, a couple of Leafs backed away from challenges by Boston’s big men to drop their gloves. Phaneuf eventually was engaged to fight Nathan Horton late in the proceedings.
“I didn’t want to at that point, with the score the way it was,” Phaneuf said. “I didn’t think it was very necessary. But there wasn’t much of an option after (Horton) came around the linesman. I thought we were playing really well, so why give momentum back to them?
“They played hard and physical as they always do, a big set of forwards with a really good back end. But our forwards did a good job working their defencemen down low and getting pucks on net with a lot of traffic against a very good goalie.”
As big as the Boston victory was, the Leafs had minimal contributions from their top two lines, a disturbing pattern of late. In the four games since March 12, when Nikolai Kulemin, Clarke MacArthur, Mikhail Grabovski and Phil Kessel all scored in the same game for the first time this season, only Kulemin and Bozak have registered...Toronto now has beaten every team in the Northeast Division home and away, which wasn’t the case the past couple of years. They are 10-8-2 in the division ... Reimer is just 23, but knew what was going on Saturday during the tribute to the 1951 Stanley Cup champs. “I’m the only guy who has been here for 10 prospect camps,” laughed Reimer of the Leafs history lesson all new recruits are given. “So I’ve heard a lot. I know what a few of those guys did. But it’s good for everyone to see a little bit about what they did and see them get honoured.”