Just 32 seconds into the first period, Josh Leivo’s knee collided with James Reimer and the goaltender with a history of concussion issues was forced to leave the contest.
Jonathan Bernier replaced Reimer in net, only to give up a bizarre game-winning goal for Carolina that bounced off the back boards and deflected off Bernier’s skate to slide into the net. The Leafs had just coughed up a two-goal third period lead and were unable to recover from the unfortunate bounce.
The combination of losing Reimer and the awkward goal allowed by Bernier resulted in the most painful loss of the season for the Maple Leafs. Reimer’s neck appeared to snap back quickly after colliding with Leivo, and the last thing any Leafs fan wanted to see was the goaltender potentially dealing with concussion issues again. There was no immediate update on Reimer’s condition, but the situation is all too familiar for Leaf fans as it brings back painful memories of when Brian Gionta collided with Reimer in the past.
The insult to injury came for the Leafs when the unfortunate bounce was allowed by Bernier that ultimately resulted in the game-winner. Fans who were suggesting trading one of the team’s goaltenders were suddenly silenced as after the difficult injury, and the Leafs were still able to place a quality goaltender in net. Bernier played well, stopping 34-of-37 shots against. He was beat by a shot that was headed low, only to be deflected to the top-shelf by his teammate Dave Bolland. Eric Staal sniped a top-corner goal when the puck landed on his stick after being blocked by Leafs defenseman Carl Gunnarson. Considering two goals were set up by unlikely circumstances created by his teammates and the third goal was a fluke bounce, it’s impossible to blame Bernier for the loss after he played so well replacing Reimer so early in the contest.
Perhaps the hockey gods caught up to the Leafs considering this was the fifth time in five games the team was dramatically outshot. Not to mention, injury woes appear to be playing a major factor early in the season. With Nikolai Kulemin, Mark Fraser and James van Reimsdyk being forced to miss multiple games, the Leafs have been extremely fortunate they’ve been able to plug bodies into the lineup who have contributed right away. Also, considering David Clarkson hasn’t played a game yet due to his suspension, the Leafs are currently missing three players who were expected to play in the team’s top-9 forward positions.
If Reimer is forced to miss any significant time, the Leafs could have just lost a major trade chip moving forward. When Reimer was forced to miss time after he previously suffered a concussion, he didn’t return the same goalie as it took him nearly a full year to return to the level of play he was performing at prior to the injury. With the Leafs playing so well with so many forwards out of the lineup, there was legitimate potential for the Leafs to package Reimer along with a forward to try to improve the roster. There was also talk about combining Reimer with Jake Gardiner given how well Morgan Rielly has played.
Things couldn’t have gone much worse for Toronto when they hosted the Hurricanes. They not only lost the game in the worst way imaginable, but they also lost their potential starting goaltender. Depending on how serious things are with Reimer, they could have just lost a trade that could have significantly enhanced the roster.
Karma had been great to the Leafs to begin the year. Things might have just evened out after this night.