March 23 2014 10:00AM
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.
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
They get to go to this guy, Cory Schneider, the stronger of the two goalies, for the second game:
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.
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?