Leafs goalie situation can't mask scoring woes
Mike Zeisberger, QMI Agency
|Goalie James Reimer will debut a new mask Tuesday night if he gets the start against the Panthers in Florida. (QMI Agency)
SUNRISE, FL. - James Reimer is set to debut a new Transformers-themed mask whenever he next gets the call to start in goal for the Maple Leafs.
Could the official unveiling come Tuesday night when his Leafs take on the Florida Panthers at the BankAtlantic Center?
Between Reimer, fellow coach Jonas Gustavsson and head coach Randy Carlyle, the answer to the question of who starts between the pipes for the Leafs is being guarded as if it’s a state secret.
According to Gustavsson, there will be an afternoon team meeting to discuss such things. Obviously, the rest of the world will find out during warmup who will be the starter, thereby exposing if Reimer’s mask, which is being referred to as “Optimus Reim,” will get television exposure once the opening faceoff takes place.
In the end, whoever gets the call or whatever mask gets showcased is irrelevent if the Leafs can not supply their goaltenders with any offensive support.
Already trailing the eighth-place Washington Capitals by eight points with just 13 games remaining on the schedule, the Leafs come to south Florida having not scored a goal in the past 157 minutes, 24 seconds of play.
Carlyle has been stressing getting bodies in front of the opposition goalie, in this case Jose Theodore. Unlike the Leafs, the Panthers are not hiding the identity of their starter.
“The new term in hockey is “Taking the goalie’s eyes away,”” Carlyle explained.
In other words, it’s a new take on the old adage that you have to get traffic in front of the other team’s net.
With the Leafs mired in an awful 2-12-2 funk, a loss to the Panthers would bring the organization one step closer to yet another humiliating situation.
Since the ugly lockout of 2004-05, the Leafs and Panthers are the only two teams not to have made a post-season appearance. But having compiled 77 points already this season, Florida is on the verge of finally getting in, leaving the real possibility that the Leafs will be the only team with that dubious distinction.
History is not on Toronto’s side here. The Leafs are 0-3 versus Florida this season and have not won a game at the BankAtlantic Center in 27 months.
Interestingly, Panthers bench boss Kevin Dineen was hired for his first pro coaching gig by Brian Burke. Back in 2005, Burke, the GM of Anaheim at the time, brought in Dineen to be the bench boss of the AHL’s Portland Pirates, the top farm team of the Ducks.
While Dineen remains grateful for that opportunity to this day, there will be no sentimentality shown towards Burke or Burke’s Leafs once the puck drops on Tuesday night.
“It’s time for us to put the hammer down,” Dineen said.
No matter which goalie the Leafs decide to start.