If there was ever a chance for James Reimer to make a statement saying that he deserves to be the Toronto Maple Leafs‘ No. 1 goaltender, it would have been in his home province against the Winnipeg Jets. Unfortunately for Reimer, the exact opposite happened, as he was pulled after allowing four goals in Toronto’s 5-4 overtime loss to the Jets.
Jonathan Bernier has clearly become Toronto’s No. 1 goaltender, as it’s now painfully obvious that the coaching staff believe he gives the team their best chance of winning games. Bernier has been in net for seven of Toronto’s last nine victories, including a three-game win streak and four games during the Maple Leafs’ recent six-game win streak. However, a poor outing against the Dallas Stars that saw Bernier get pulled, combined by a strong showing from Reimer against the Colorado Avalanche, left the door open just a crack for the possibility of Reimer regaining Toronto’s No. 1 goaltending position.
Had Reimer performed at a high-level in what was essentially a hometown game for the goaltender, Toronto’s goaltending controversy would be on the verge of returning. However, two goals in the first seven minutes of the game against the Jets, along with two more goals less than a minute apart in the second period, resulted in Reimer watching the rest of the contest from the bench.
To be fair to the goaltender, his teammates didn’t exactly start the game with the type of energy and intensity needed to be successful, as Toronto spent most of the first 10 minutes chasing Winnipeg in the Maple Leafs’ own zone. Regardless, the last thing Reimer needed was to be pulled and then look on as Bernier made 12 saves while the Maple Leafs stormed back to force overtime.
Coach Randy Carlyle continues to label the duo as a 1A and 1B tandem, refusing to acknowledge Bernier as the team’s true No. 1 goaltender. However, his actions speak louder than words and playing Bernier more than twice as much as Reimer over the past month says everything needed to know about who Carlyle thinks gives him the best chance of success.
Reimer will now have to sit on the sidelines and wait for Bernier to stumble again like he did in Dallas for any hope of proving he can be Toronto’s No. 1 goaltender. He lost a great opportunity against the Jets to prove something to Carlyle, but all it did was reassure the coach that he has been making the right decision by playing Bernier more often.
Reimer is a fighter and will continue to battle for more playing time, but for now, the player between the pipes for Toronto will undoubtedly be Bernier.