Originally written on Red Light District Hockey  |  Last updated 11/13/14

NEWARK, NJ - FEBRUARY 05: Jonas Gustavsson #50 and Francois Beauchemin #22 of the Toronto Maple Leafs defend against Zach Parise #9 and Dainius Zubrus #8 of the New Jersey Devils at the Prudential Center on February 5, 2010 in Newark, New Jersey. The Devils defeated the Leafs 4-3. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)


By Dan Berlin

With their first playoff berth in almost a decade in sight, it's February and the Toronto Maple Leafs are still without a clear-cut number one goalie.

For the past month, it looked like Jonas Gustavsson was going to be it. Heading into the All-Star break, the "Monster" had been just that -- a beast between the pipes, starting 10 of 11 games for Toronto since the New Year, while posting an impressive 7-2-1 record, with three shutouts to boot. He had seemingly gained the confidence of head coach Ron Wilson and wrestled the starting gig away from consensus pre-season starter James Reimer. Or so we thought.

Then Tuesday night happened. In the team's first game back after the break, Gustavsson reverted to the shaky "Monster" of old, from beast to bust. Staked to a three-goal lead in the third period at Pittsburgh, the Penguins managed to come all the way back, tying the game with under seven seconds left to play. Thanks in no small part to Gustavsson's inability to hold down the fort late in the game, including a real softie that cut the lead to one with five minutes to play. The Leafs eventually lost 5-4 in a shootout.

Enter the revolving door.

On Wednesday, it was Reimer who got the call in goal for the Leafs, in the second game of their back-to-back, home-and-home series with Pittsburgh. Reimer, who has struggled in his return from a concussion suffered in late October and had managed only one start since Jan. 1 -- a 3-2 loss to Ottawa on January 17 -- did himself a huge favour by not only getting the win, but pitching a 25-save shutout in Toronto's 1-0 victory over the Pens. It was his second shutout of the season and first since opening night.

Wilson now has a tough decision to make. Does he go back to Reimer, and give him the chance to build off his solid shutout performance? The answer is a resounding yes, if Wilson believes that there's still a chance that Reimer can regain his stellar form from the second half of last season, and legitimately be the guy to lead his team into the postseason and beyond.

To Reimer's credit, he spent the All-Star break working his butt off, doing two-a-day workouts with a personal trainer in Vancouver, trying to get his mojo back. Reimer needs reps, and there'd arguably be no better time than the present to see if he has what it takes to reclaim the starter's spot in net.

But what about Gustavsson? Just two weeks ago, Wilson showed strong support for his supposed No. 1 (at the time) despite a bad game, giving the 27-year-old Swede the start following a subpar performance in a 3-1 loss to Montreal on Jan. 21. He responded with a 3-0 shutout win over the Islanders two nights later.

While Gustavsson did well to offer some semblance of consistent goaltending during the month of January for the Leafs, he ultimately remains an unproven and enigmatic quantity moving forward this season. Reimer, on the other hand, managed to rekindle some hope among the Leafs faithful that Wednesday night's win could be the start of things to come.

Of course, there are no guarantees. With his glaring weakness high-glove-side, it's more like a 50/50 proposition at best. And there's always the possibility that, if neither guy can assume the reigns as No. 1 in the next few weeks, GM Brian Burke could trade for a goalie (i.e. Evgeni Nabokov) at the deadline.

Truth is, there's not only a ton of pressure on both of these goalies to perform now, but on management as well. Anything less than making the playoffs this season translates to epic failure for the Leafs. Sitting precariously in seventh spot in the East with 31 games to go, they need consistent and solid goaltending from here on out in order to get there.

For now, the revolving door in net continues to turn in Toronto. The question is, when will it stop?

Photos credit: Getty Images

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