News broke out of Dallas yesterday morning that James Reimer occupied the home net at Maple Leafs practice on Thursday morning. Not being a beat-writer, but taking my cues from the guys who are, I guess this presumes that Reimer will see some sort of game action soon, although Jonas Siegel speculates at TSN that it could take as many as ten days.
So how has Toronto fared in the absence of one Jimmy Reimer?
Well, they went 5-2 before Reimer went out (including the Montreal game in which he was injured) and since have gone just 7-8 since. Jonas Gustavsson has picked up the reins over Ben Scrivens and has a .914 even strength save percentage throughout the season, though that went up to .918 since he picked up the reins over Reimer. As for Scrivens, NHL.com has him at a .909 even strength save percentage while timeonice.com has him down for a .913.
Neither of those numbers are good enough for NHL-level teams. Pascal Leclaire and Antero Niittymaki were two goalies who “earned” a .914 save percentage at even strength last season, and Ben Scrivens’ .909-.913 puts him somewhere in the region of Alex Auld, Steve Mason or Andrew Raycroft.
Conversely, Reimer’s .933 from last season, albeit in a small sample, was one of the best clips afforded by NHL goalies last season, a number right up there with Roberto Luongo and Pekka Rinne. There is no question that he is the Leafs number one man and key to their success.
But, according to timeonice, the Leafs goaltending at even strength in Reimer’s absence was actually quite remarkable. Post-Montreal, the team received a .921, which would have had the Leafs at 11th-best in the NHL last season. Far from being a hindrance, the even strength goaltending was really an asset to the Leafs and helped them keep in contention.
So why the lower record?
- Shooting percentage: The Leafs had shot 11.9% at even strength in games in which Reimer has appeared and have regressed to 8.3% since. There may be something to be said about a good goaltender maybe being able to open up your style of play (the Leafs shot 9.9% in front of Reimer last season compared to 7.0% in front of other goalies) but that certainly wasn’t the case the early going this season. (The Leafs shot 13.5% in front of Gustavsson in the early going and 9.9% in front of Reimer) The Leafs went through a brief slump of regression as expected.
- Penalties: It’s simplistic to say that your goaltender has to be your best penalty killer. If that were the case, the Leafs’ best goaltender would be their best penalty killer, but Toronto made no more saves with Reimer in net (.808 SV% this season) than with Gustavsson (.814 SV%) or Scrivens (.867 SV%) on the penalty kill this season. Yet, the Leafs have allowed .955 powerplay goals against per 60 minutes with Gustavsson and Scrivens in net versus .737 per 60 with Reimer. Why the reason for the discrepancy? The only explination I can think of is that the team is taking more penalties in general, or allowing more shots on the PK. Either way, both of those problems are fixable regardless of who is in net.
Those are two problems I foresee for Toronto that can’t rectify themselves just by getting Reimer in net. Any team can get hit by the variance train and the Leafs penalty-killing is still just awful to watch. A little bit of goal support has helped in the Leafs’ last two wins, as Jonas Gustavsson benefit from having 14 goals scored for him in two starts, and, despite close losses to Phoenix and Carolina (as well as a pretty complete game against Nashville, even though it was a 4-1 loss) the Leafs are playing quite well in last while. Reimer should give a jolt to the team as far as even strength goal differential goes, but the team’s regresion to .500 play since his injury have been more than goalie-related.