October 2, 2011
Leafs' Reimer remains confident
By Terry Koshan, QMI Agency
TORONTO - Of the questions that surround the Maple Leafs with the regular-season opener looming on Thursday, James Reimer insisted there should be no concern with his play.
“You don’t want to give up four goals in a game,” Reimer said following a 4-2 loss against the Detroit Red Wings on Saturday night, “but as far as the fundamentals of goaltending and where I need to be in my crease and seeing the puck, and reading the plays, I felt pretty good and better with every game.
“The results have not been there, but as far as me being personally prepared, I think I am in a pretty good spot mentally and physically so I should be ready to go.”
With a plethora of injuries — centres Tim Connolly (upper body), Tyler Bozak (undisclosed) and Mikhail Grabovski (foot) and left winger Nazem Kadri (knee) all finished the pre-season on the shelf — Reimer has to start backing up his words with solid performances when Montreal Canadiens visit the Air Canada Centre on Thursday.
Reimer’s pre-season numbers said he struggled, and some fat rebounds did not help. Reimer won once in four games and had a 3.29 goals-against average with an .888 save percentage. He was always going to be the engine in the Leafs’ attack, no matter how much off-season additions Connolly and John-Michael Liles were going to contribute, but now that an uneven camp for most of the Leafs’ big-name players is done, Reimer will have to be that much better. The injuries have left little room for chemistry.
“He is working to find his form,” said Leafs coach Ron Wilson, who gave his players Sunday off. “I think he is pretty close to it.”
We’re not expecting Reimer to fall short of living up to expectations that he created when he shone last year, but one good point of camp was the Leafs continued to realize they have another strong goalie, Ben Scrivens, in the pipe line. Scrivens was sent to the Toronto Marlies on Sunday, marking the lone cut before the rest are expected to be made on Monday, but he could be back with the Leafs before long. If Reimer or backup Jonas Gustavsson falters, the Leafs are more than confident that Scrivens can be thrust into action and win games.
While Scrivens was demonstrating he is close to being NHL-ready, Leafs brass appeared to come to the conclusion that the group of forwards has to be improved, injuries or not. General manager Brian Burke would like to add an impactful player before the Habs come calling, but that could be hard to do as other teams might want to see how their players settle through the first few weeks.
Burke has no less than eight NHL defencemen, and a couple of solid blueliners are likely to be watching from the press box when the regular season starts. That’s if one, perhaps Carl Gunnarsson, is not traded before.
Once practices resume on Monday, observers should have a firm idea of who will not be playing on Thursday. Jake Gardiner has made the decision difficult, and Keith Aulie could be in trouble.
With Scrivens gone, just a handful of cuts need to be made for the Leafs to get to a 23-man roster by Wednesday. Defenceman Matt Lashoff surely will be one, and depending on how well Connolly and Bozak recover, Darryl Boyce and Philippe Dupuis could be on thin ice. Matthew Lombardi, back from a year off after a concussion, is counting on playing on Thursday. If Lombardi plays well, could Bozak find himself on the way out via trade? It’s possible.
Joey Crabb likely is Marlies-bound, while Matt Frattin should be okay. Does anyone really think the Leafs need both Jay Rosehill, who could be cut, and Colton Orr?
Which brings us back to Reimer. The players in the races for the final roster spots wouldn’t, obviously, have been largely influential. But Reimer, of course, can be. With the Leafs nowhere close to being a team that has jelled, Reimer can’t be pretty good. He’ll have to be excellent.