Mandatory Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports

Leafs blessed with good goaltending early in the season

It’s a rare opportunity for a team not only to have one quality and reliable goaltender, but two. That is the case with the Leafs this season. Seven games in, Optimus Reim  James Reimer and Jonathan Bernier have both been exactly what the Leafs need. Yes, every game day we’re inundated with questions of “Who is starting?” and countless answers from just about everybody, but the question should be “Why do we care who starts?”

Bernier has lived up to the enormous expectations he was burdened with after general manager Dave Nonis brought him in via trade in the offseason. In five games with Toronto, he has posted a 1.75 goals-against average and posted a save percentage of .946 while winning four of his five games played. Some believe he is the undisputed No. 1 in net, and while that can sometimes cause a rift between the two goalies, James Reimer has handled the situation excellently. While Reimer’s stats may not look great right now, he has only played three games, and he was back to his usual dominant self when he started Tuesday night. Look for his numbers to improve.

Bernier’s stats are bound to regress, as are the Leafs’ special teams and shooting percentages. But it’s such a relief to know on any given night the goaltending can bail the team out. That’s not to say that if the Leafs did stick to Ben Scrivens it would not have a positive impact, but Bernier is just on another level.

For Reimer, it’s just a matter of being ready whenever he gets the call. He said he is OK with whatever decision Randy Carlyle makes. He would for sure love to start, and maybe he should get more opportunities as the season progresses. Maybe Bernier struggles for some games here and there, and Reimer gets to grab the baton and run with it. Or maybe Bernier continues on this impressive streak and the Leafs decided to name him the “starter”. At least the Leafs have a solid backup to put between the pipes. Most NHL teams don’t have that luxury. Teams like Detroit, Calgary, Edmonton, etc. can’t spread out the minutes between their goalies because they have to rely on their main man to play and win as many games as possible, and teams suffer due to over-worked goalies. The Leafs don’t have that problem and should take advantage.

Dave Nonis gets a lot of hate because of his ridiculous contracts given to Tyler Bozak and David Clarkson, but getting Bernier was a great move by him. The goalie jokes are gone for a team that for a long time was missing a quality No. 1 goalie. Now they not only have one, but two and so far are off to a really hot start. Even if the goaltending stats downgrade, at least they won’t fall to the level that Leafs fans had to endure when Jonas Gustavsson was rocking the Blue & White. This is a good time to be Leafs fan, for now.

The Leafs face some tough match-ups this coming week with the Blackhawks, Sharks, Ducks and Penguins all on the schedule. It would be a good test if Bernier gets the majority of those nods to see if he can continue the good play. This will be a crucial time to see if Bernier is the true “number one” for the Leafs, or if these early numbers are just smoke and mirrors. Starts against the Oilers, Predators and Flames should be good for Reimer as those teams struggle to put the puck in the net. If the Leafs can improve their shot differential and defensive zone play, they have an opportunity to grab most of the points against those teams. I am not trying to downgrade Reimer, I just think games against weaker offensive teams could help his confidence. The Leafs have a good thing going with their two goalies. Let’s hope it continues.

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Tags: James Reimer Jonathan Bernier Toronto Maple Leafs

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