Goaltenders, by nature, are easy targets. They’re the last ones to make a mistake before the puck goes in, and when they’re doing their job at their absolute best, the results are boring and forgettable until you look at the scoresheet at the final buzzer.
I’m going to keep this short, but sweet. Nobody is going to deny that James Reimer is struggling a bit. His numbers since the Los Angeles game look like his post-concussion numbers in 2011/12, and he’s let in a couple of weak goals over the past few days. But to act like the’s the only fault, the reason the Leafs are losing. Is close minded. Quite simply; the Leafs are under performing so badly, that they’d need hall of fame quality goaltending to weather this tide.
No crazy statistics. Just a two tables. The Toronto Maple Leafs have not scored more than three regulation goals in any game this month. This is important, because it requires the goalie to let in no more than two to win the game in sixty minutes, At 25 shots against per game (NJ is best at 25.5), stopping all but two requires a 0.920 save percentage, well above league average. A team needs to be able to occasionally score enough that their goaltender doesn’t have to have an amazing night. Here’s the rest of the league and their 4+ goal games in March.
The only team that doesn’t have a 4+ goal game in March is the Buffalo Sabres, who are dead last in the NHL by a mile, and are on pace for the lowest goals per game average the league has seen since 1936. Coincidentally, the Leafs are on pace to be in the top 5 for most shots allowed in a season, leaving this deadly combination.
Save % required for Regulation Win, March 2014
|Game||Goals For||Shots Against||Required SV%|
|5-Mar (NY Rangers)||3||37||946|
|11-Mar (San Jose)||2||48||979|
|13-Mar (Los Angeles)||3||41||951|
|19-Mar (Tampa Bay)||3||30||933|
|23-Mar (New Jersey)||2||24||958|
Cool, so the Leafs need at least a 0.933 SV% to win a game on a given night this month, as they continue to bleed shots against. The highest save percentage by a goalie who has played 30+ games this year? A tie between former Leafs prospects Tuukka Rask and Ben Scrivens, at 0.929. A consistent 0.933 goaltender would have the 4th highest save percentage by a Vezina Trophy winner ever, and smash the Leafs record.
No matter how shaky Reimer has been, no matter what goals “should” or “shouldn’t” have been in, the last line of defence needs more support. Whether it’s more goals for, or limiting of shots against, one can’t underestimate the height of the mountain they expected to climb right now. No goalie should be placed under this much of a challenge with an expectation of success.