Jeff Veillette (Jeffler)
March 18 2014 10:23PM
The Toronto Maple Leafs just lost to the Detroit Red Wings in a game where James Reimer saved three pucks, but allowed three to go past him. Two quotes and two tweets later, and everybody is in a state of mini-panic. Let's break some statements down.
First off, if you don't follow Chris Johnston, you probably should. He's always good for quotes and brings some stellar insight from time to time. Moving on.
I feel like this was an incredibly unfair statement on Randy Carlyle's part. First and foremost, the only way that James Reimer is "Just OK" is if you judge by his save percentage on the night (0.909), which is ever so slightly below league average. But we all know that the Leafs are #TeamWatchTheGames and anti-Calculator, so lets step back for a second and watch the goals.
Nyquist has a clear cut breakaway and is basically able to do whatever he wants. This is a high percentage shot. Reimer still gets a piece of it, but it trickles in.
Nyquist again has several seconds, unobstructed, to decide what he's going to do with the puck. In the end, he gets to take a snapshot, on his own, from the hashmarks. This is a high percentage shot. But Reimer plays the angle well, so the only way this puck is going in is if he catches the edge of the post.
Legwand and Alfredsson have a two on one. With Cody Franson blocking the pass, Reimer doesn't full commit to the shot, but leans in that direction to be safe. Cody Franson, however, was not capable of actually blocking the pass and let it go under his stick. James van Riemsdyk was still far behind at first, giving Daniel Afredsson an unguarded snapshot at hashmark distance, but near centre. This is a, wait for it, high percentage shot. Reimer gets over to match it, but doesn't have enough time to stop it and it beats him to put the Wings up 3-1.
Basically, all three goals involve the Leafs putting Reimer in situations where he's not likely to have success in. All three goals have multiple players you can blame for causing that. Reimer was equal to the task in several other important occasions tonight, and despite these goals where he was hung out to dry, still put up a decent performance mathematically.
How did he feel about his game?
This is, coincidentally, the meanest thing that James Reimer has ever done, and by that I mean correctly defend himself. This was a solid game on his part, and not the only time that he's had a good night out on the town and the team has failed him.
The Leafs are 11-5-1 this year when Reimer has a even save percentage above 0.910, but three of those came in a shootout, and their goal differential in those games is just +3. On nights where his numbers are below that, he only has 1 win in 11, and the fact that the Leafs only average 2.27 goals for in those games doesn't help that.
But looking at tonight; there's no need to throw him under the bus. Even if you want to say that those three goals were bad ones to give up, and they weren't, he's still someone you want to keep in high morale. Goaltending is the most important position on a team that bleeds shots, and with Jonathan Bernier out, Reimer has to play well, and often in the meantime.
If we want to go by actual performance tonight, it would've been best to point fingers at the defencemen who weren't there to help Reimer out, who completely flew under the radar in Randy's comments. You know who else realizes it's the defence to blame? Reimer's agent.
Oh boy, has this team played poorly defensively. Tonight was a game of obvious mistakes, but this season has been one of patterns. The Leafs are the second worst possession team in the NHL, and at 36.3 a game, are on pace to give up the third most shots in recorded NHL history, trailing teams who had just 11 and 27 respective wins in 84 game seasons. When you're on the verge of making the playoffs anyway, goaltending should be the last position anybody points fingers at. Full credit to Mr. Petkau for standing up for his client. Well, sorta.
Whether he's being truthful or not is an argument we could have until the cows come home, but even if he had seen the recap, recanting now makes sense.
This wouldn't be the first time a Leafs player's agent has spoken out in defence of their client. Last year, Ben Hakinson brought out #FreeJakeGardiner, causing much hype and many spinoffs (I'm Senior VP of #FreeCarterAshton at the moment). It came in the midst of a Leafs losing streak and with Gardiner finally catching up after struggling with post-concussion issues on the Marlies.
The tweet, while funny, didn't influence a call up. It will likely lead to some (minor) friction in negotiation when Gardiner becomes a restricted free agent in the summer, and Petkau probably realizes he doesn't need the same thing happening Reimer. Being correct on the internet doesn't matter when there are millions of dollars at stake.
James Reimer played well. Randy Carlyle is blaming the wrong people. Reimer's agent is right, but for the sake of his client, was wise to take back his words swiftly. But at least we got to see this all unfold and grab popcorn which we may or may not have consumed.