LGD - Game 73: Leafs @ Devils - Baby got Back to Back

Cam Charron
March 23 2014 10:00AM

james sadface

The Toronto Maple Leafs' goaltenders save percentage is now a ghastly 9th in the National Hockey League, and James Reimer's has fallen below the league average for starters on the year over the last two games.

The losing streak isn't James Reimer's fault so much as it's been that Reimer's regrettably been the guy in the net as the team continues to fall hard. Toronto has given up the first goal in each game of the losing streak, and have earned 13 shot attempts to the opponents' 22 before the first goal is scored in those games, so by all means… blame the goalie.

Just a comment on the winning goal from the Montreal game because Jeff barely touched on it in the recap, but I'm reminded a little of Bill James' comments on defence when looking at that goal. James, when evaluating fielders early in his days as a stat junkie, took issue with the "error" statistic, noting that good fielders get unfairly punished by the traditional error statistic. He argued that a fielder who gets to a lot of balls (ie, a better fielder) will misplay more of them.

On that fourth goal, not absolving Reimer, but there are some goalies in the NHL who would have overcommit on the pass from Andrei Markov and not even been in position to misplay the puck (like Jimmy Howard on this play here). Nobody would have complained had Reimer been on the other side of the crease and conceded on the play. "He had no chance on that" would be the story rather than "Reimer lets a weak one through". The weak ones suck because it's so close and yet so far, but don't harp on Reimer being in position to make a save. It was an unlucky bounce and that happens. It's hockey, and the Leafs give up so many shots a game that they're in a position for more bounces to go the wrong way than the right way.

After tonight, Reimer leads the NHL in saves per 60 minutes of play (33.4). Second is Jonathan Bernier is 32.3. The right answer isn't to blame the goaltending for not being possibly the best goaltending duo of the modern era.

GOALTENDING STORYLINES

Reimer will probably take the pipes against New Jersey. Per mc79hockey, home teams on 0 days rest beat road teams on 0 days of rest approximately 57.8% of the time, so the Leafs are already on a disadvantage. Consider, though, that they'll be playing a goalie on both halves of a back-to-back while the New Jersey Devils will presumably be switching theirs.

Saturday, the Devils lost to the New York Rangers (because the universe hates you) with Martin Brodeur in net

SHOTS SAVES SAVE %
887 800 0.902

They get to go to this guy, Cory Schneider, the stronger of the two goalies, for the second game:

SHOTS SAVES SAVE %
918 839 0.914

BASICALLY

A win here is necessary, but improbable. I'm posting this before I know the outcome of the Columbus game Sunday afternoon, but a win by Columbus and a win by Detroit against Minnesota (the Red Wings are the home team on the second half of a home-and-home) puts the Leafs out of the playoffs.

Even then, I'd go with Drew MacIntyre in New Jersey, because I think it's unfair to Reimer to start him for the fifth time in eight days, and also for both halves of a back-to-back twice in less than a week. I'm not optimistic that a lot of good can come of this.

Here are the lines the Devils rolled with in their loss to the Rangers:

Tuomo Ruutu - Travis Zajac - Jaromir Jagr
Adam Henrique - Patrik Elias - Michael Ryder
Ryane Clowe - Jacob Josefson - Dainius Zubrus
Ryan Carter - Stephen Gionta - Steve Bernier

Andy Greene - Mark Fayne
Jon Merrill - Marek Zidlicky
Bryce Salvador - Anton Volchenkov

The 12th forward and 6th defenceman for the Devils are more of a suggestion. Peter DeBoer likes to mix and match lower in his batting order, and as a result Ruutu took some shifts on the fourth line in place of Steve Bernier and Bryce Salvador got some everyman minutes with Marek Zidlicky.

New Jersey are notorious for locking it down defensively and not giving up lots of shots. Can they contain David Clarkson?

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Cam Charron is a BC hockey fan that writes about hockey on many different websites including this one.
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#1 STAN
March 23 2014, 11:01AM
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The Leafs are collapsing in more ways than one - racking up loss after loss in the stretch drive to the post-season, and around their goaltender as they emulate Keystone Kops in trying to play the stopper.

But, the Leafs seem to win when least expected; eking out improbable wins in Anaheim and San Jose recently, and that 7-2 Saturday night HNIC blowout of Chicago last fall.

They must be the least consistent team in the NHL, so it's anyone's guess whether they'll show up today.

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#2 not_SorjeBalming
March 23 2014, 11:32AM
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I really don't get all the apologizing for Reimer...I just don't. His soft goals at the beginning of games have to be deflating to the team. When someone says the team plays better in front of Bernier, they have a point. Maybe it's because they don't feel their efforts will be wasted with crappy soft goals (he has given up worse soft goals...but not as often for sure) and they try a bit harder on a subconscious level.

I just don't get the love for Reimer when his biggest fault in my opinion is not owning up to his sub par play when it happens. He rarely if ever takes the blame for those softies and always thinks he played "good" not OK...but GOOD.

If Reimer is so fragile that a coach has to lie about his performance to the media to keep his confidence up...then I don't think your a number 1 goalie. Doesn't anyone remember Ron Wilson? he used to criticize players after they played WELL for cying out loud.

I don't like Carlyle...don't think his "system" is a fit for us...either we have the dumbest group of players in the league or his system is just so complicated defensively that they don't know how to follow it...one or the other or a combination of both perhaps. All I know is...Carlyle is not the reason Reimer is having a hard time in net.

If Bernier played like this over the last 21 games...people would be asking for his skin...why the love for Reimer?? just call a spade a spade...he is not worth playing over Mcintyre in net in NJ tonight.

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#3 Jeremy Ian
March 23 2014, 12:29PM
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Well, my son and I are going to the game this evening -- already not in a great mood (unlike the MSG game a few weeks ago, which was a blast). (My son will be wearing his LeafsNation sweatshirt, so look out for him -- Section 18, Row 3, should be a few rows back from the Leaf bench).

I agree with Cam that there are enough weak links on this team to spread the blame around. They are uneven and inconsistent -- as fun to watch as they are frustrating. But where they HAVE been pretty consistent has been in goal. This is a dreadful time for Reimer to slide just as the rest of the team has started to address some of their woeful habits of late 2013.

The other slide is on the penalty kill and the first power play unit. If we were going to dissect some causes, I am not sure why those two aren't under the lens more. With the number of games winding down, it's not easy to relearn game plans. Maybe best to try to play 5:5.

With Bolland back, someone suggested that he center a super checking line with Bodie and Kulemin. I'd rather see that match against top lines than the Leafs No. 1.

This summer the league should examine footage where D-men push rushing forwards into their goalies to draw penalties. Ironic that JVR gets called on this one when Gionta was the one who flew into Reimer two years ago...

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#4 Ssdd
March 23 2014, 01:05PM
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@not_SorjeBalming

I don't know that the team plays any better in front of Bernier than they do in front of Reimer. I think that Carlyle's assessment of Reimer's play after the Detroit game, "okay, just okay" was fair. Perhaps he could have gone further & said "most nights we need an outstanding effort like he gave us in LA, because we are so weak defensively & get continually exposed that okay doesn't get it done because we have seem to lack focus to play an acceptable game defensively & we continually get out worked by every team, elite or not elite". However Carlyle's stock answer is that the team does not play to it's potential, or what they believe is the level of hockey they can play too. Hence it appears that the goaltending is the bane of Carlyle's existence. This is magnified with Reimer because he has never been a favourite of Carlyle's perhaps moreso after the Game 7 collapse last year which it appears Carlyle holds Reimer accountable for. But more than the defensive liabilities, the giveaways are a major concern as well & only serve to extenuate them. Reimer has too pump his own tires because it will never come from Carlyle. Even if he plays outstanding the only positive stroke Carlyle can give is that he did what goalies are supposed to do, give us a chance to win. I suspect that that is the prevalent feeling amongst the majority of Leaf fans as well and most would have the same opinion after the Game 7 debacle. I suspect that this will not be a problem next year, Reimer will seek a trade & Nonis will accommodate hi because it is clear they have no faith in Reimer and it has become a distraction. Enough of a distraction that it is far to easy for everyone to forget that there are bigger problems with this team than the goaltending.

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