If the playoffs began today, the Toronto Maple Leafs would have a problem.
After (non-arguable) No. 1 Leafs goalie Jonathan Bernier suffered a groin strain in last week’s matchup against the Los Angeles Kings, backup goalie James Reimer gave the performance of his season, stopping every shot he faced in a 3-2 Leafs win.
Since then, Reimer has been mediocre at best and the Leafs have yet to win again. The most recent loss came at the hands of the Detroit Red Wings on Tuesday night at Joe Louis Arena and unfortunately for the Leafs, the most notable difference in their game these days is the lack of dependability in net.
For Toronto, having a player like Bernier in net means the offensively-minded team is allowed a few defensive slips in their own zone. Four times out of five, Bernier will correct the mistake. Reimer isn’t that goalie anymore for the Leafs. He is good, at times great, but the consistency is no longer there due to the game the Leafs have become accustomed to playing with Bernier.
Is it all Reimer’s fault? Of course not. But with only 11 wins in 29 games this season, it is a problem with a solution yet to be found.
After the loss Tuesday, Leafs head coach Randy Carlyle bluntly told the media he thought Reimer’s performance was simply “okay”. During his own questioning, the goalie said he felt his performance was better than okay. He thought he was good — cue the silence on the flight back to Toronto.
Bouncing the blame back and forth does nothing for the actual issue at hand: the Leafs will not move any higher in the standings playing the kind of game they faced Detroit with.
If the playoffs began today, Toronto would face Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins in the first round. And despite the fact that Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury has had a few postseason mishaps of his own, with the way Pittsburgh is drilling offense right now, Reimer stands little to no chance of pulling his team through to the finish. Bernier is a different story, and hopefully a healthy one soon.
Thankfully for Toronto residents and fans alike, the playoffs do not start today. The standings will certainly be switched around like derby picks in Kentucky before positions are locked in, but the Leafs have a problem if Bernier can’t get back on his feet soon — because “okay” doesn’t win games.