With a home opener win courtesy of a James Reimer shutout, the Toronto Maple Leafs kick start the season on a high note. It seemed as though Reimer picked up right where he left off last season; turning away all 32 Montreal shots yesterday, Reimer collects his first shutout of the season and 4th of his budding NHL career.
At the end of the 3rd period, the Air Canada Centre, along with the rest of Leafs Nation, erupted as the Leafs collected their first 2 points of the season. The feeling in the air is that the Leafs, spearheaded by captain Dion Phaneuf, Phil Kessel, James Reimer and Mikhail Grabovski, will finally end their current, 7-year long playoff drought. After the first win, many Leaf fans are certain they have a solid squad this season, but perhaps it is too soon to celebrate. You might recall early last season when Toronto jumped out of the gate at the top of the standings, with an impressive 4-0-1 record. Soon enough, things went south and the Leafs came crashing down with streaks of listless play, a heartbreak that Leafs fans are all too familiar with ever since the lockout year.
A similar scenario has risen once again where the optimistic Leaf fans have faith that this season will be different as they believe they have found a saviour in the form of James Reimer.
Reimer came in mid season last year and created some sparks with the deteriorating goaltending situation in Toronto. He finished his rookie season with a 20-10-5 record and a surprising .921 SV%. The season’s ending result left many to speculate that the Maple Leafs had finally found a solution to their goaltending woes. And it isn’t out of the question to believe that James Reimer is the best Leafs ‘tender to don the blue and white since the days of Eddie Belfour.
However this melody that James left us with at the end of last season sounds very familiar. Anyone recall the miraculous playoff push of the 2005-2006 season? J.S. Aubin was called up from the Marlies to bring some life in the dead Leafs. One of the most exciting stretches of hockey I had ever watched, Aubin posted an unbelievable 9-0-2 record to end the ‘05-‘06 NHL campaign, but, alas, the Leafs fell a few points short out of a playoff spot. The Leafs thought they found a gem in J.S., but to their disappointment, Aubin won 3 of the 20 games he started in the following season. There seems to be quite a few cases in the NHL where goaltenders spark for a short period of time before declining into mediocrity. Such is the example of Semyon Varlamov who was the headline news in Washington just a few years ago in the playoffs. However, due to his inconsistent play in the following seasons, he was shipped off to Colorado for draft picks.
Reimer’s case does seem to be a little different as he has proven himself with 35 games, nearly a half of a NHL season, but as the number 1 tender and the entire Leafs Nation resting on his shoulders, the musical is a little different this year. The question is, how many “Riems” can James create this season?