With just two games remaining on the preseason schedule, the Leafs face a little bit of a question of who will start in goal on opening night. Some think bringing in Jonathan Bernier from a recent Cup winner in L.A. will give the Leafs the starting goaltending it needs to get them to the postseason. Others don’t think a change is needed and James Reimer is the go-to number-one goalie. Both ‘tenders have impressed during the short preseason as they split starts between games. There’s no question who the two goalies representing the Leafs out of training camp will be, but there’s a lot of speculation that Bernier will be the number-one guy. Some people think since Bernier signed that two-year contract worth $5.8-million and was part of a Cup-winning team, he should get the nod over Reimer.
While I get the hype around Bernier, and he has impressed so far, I still think Reimer is the wise choice for number one. There were two reasons the Leafs got to the playoffs last year. One was the unreal amount of shooting luck they had last season, which is likely to take a tremendous drop. The other was the consistent and promising goaltending that James Reimer showed. Behind an unreliable defense, he stood tall and made spectacular save after spectacular save and kept the Leafs in games. His .924 save percentage was seventh in the league while he was sixth in shutouts with four. It has been a long time since the Leafs have had a reliable guy in net who can put out a solid effort night in and night out. Gone are the days of Vesa Toskala and the running joke of the Leafs having no goaltending. Those jokes are now being directed to the Philadelphia Flyers.
The Leafs have stuck with Reimer ever since they drafted him in the fourth round back in 2006. Reimer has shown he belongs in the starting role and to just toss it to a guy who only played 14 games last year and had a lower save percentage than Reimer seems risky. After coming back from what was an emotional and somewhat positive season, the Leafs want to ride the momentum and keep things working. I just hope the continuing push down our throats of Bernier by the Toronto media does not get into Randy Carlyle‘s head as he and Dave Nonis continue to cut down the roster to prepare for opening night.
With all that being said, it still would not surprise me to see Carlyle name Bernier the starter. That would be fine if the Leafs didn’t already have a number-one guy right in front of them. You have to feel after what happened against the Boston Bruins in Game 7 that Reimer feels he has something to prove. He wants to show he can perform even better than last year. He carried this team on his back repeatedly and was the main reason why the Leafs even went to seven games against the eventual Eastern Conference champions.
I have all the faith in the world that Reimer will be the starter come opening night. Management just needs to know what they have going on here and not put Bernier ahead of a young and talented Reimer. They are both young and have shown they can keep the puck out of the net on a consistent basis. It’s just Reimer is and was always the man ever since he took over. To take that away from him would be like a slap to the face, and this kid does not need a loss of confidence heading into the long 82-game season