With the news that Jonathan Bernier will be out at least three weeks with an MCL sprain, the Toronto Maple Leafs‘ chances of making the playoffs become even slimmer.
Currently sitting a point behind the Columbus Blue Jackets, the Maple Leafs have only four games remaining on their season while Columbus still has six games to play. If Toronto stands any shot of overtaking the Blue Jackets for the final Eastern Conference wild card spot, they will need James Reimer to be the team’s best player in their final four games.
At the start of the season the Maple Leafs were using a 1A and 1B goalie system that for the most part was providing consistent success. There were was no question the goaltenders combined to be the most valuable players on the roster and most victories were directly related to their play. However, as the calendar turned to 2014 Bernier had begun to separate himself from Reimer and took control as the Maple Leafs’ starting goaltender.
Reimer wasn’t happy settling for a backup role, but with Bernier’s injury taking him out of the equation, Reimer now has an incredible opportunity to re-establish himself as a starting NHL goaltender. When Bernier was forced to miss time in March with a groin injury, Reimer failed to take advantage of the opportunity as his play was shaky at best. However, with only four games remaining on the season and a favorable schedule, Reimer has been given a second chance to completely re-write his 2013-14 season.
A successful finish for Reimer doesn’t mean he must put Toronto in the playoffs, as even if the Maple Leafs win their four remaining games they can still be on the outside of the playoff picture in two weeks. All Reimer needs to do is play well enough to give the Maple Leafs a chance for victory; he doesn’t need to stand on his head with four straight shutouts.
A strong showing from Reimer could completely change opinions around the league as to whether or not he’s a capable NHL starting goaltender. Reimer has proven he can rise to the occasion and handle the pressure when he was the biggest reason the Maple Leafs were able to force a Game 7 against the Boston Bruins in the first round of the playoffs last season. If he can do it again it’ll go a long way in securing himself a starting job next season.