Less than 24 hours after Jonas Gustavsson’s shaky performance in a 4-3 overtime loss to the Devils, Leafs goaltending coach Francois Allaire met with reporters this morning to address arguably the biggest weakness on a Toronto team that’s dropping perilously close to out of the playoff picture.
Allaire’s message? Toronto’s goaltending duo is inexperienced, so…yeah, that’s the way it is.
“We’ve got two young kids in the net,” Allaire said, referring to Gustavsson, 27, and James Reimer, 23. “Not a lot of experience. Nobody has more than 90 games in the NHL. So that’s normal and we’re right in the middle of [the playoff race].
“We’ll see if we’re strong enough to get through.”
There, feel better, Leafs fans? The goalies are inexperienced. What are you gonna do? /shrugs shoulders.
If Toronto misses the playoffs again, expect general manager Brian Burke to face sharp criticism for rolling the dice with two unproven netminders.
True, Reimer — the uncontested starter out of training camp — suffered a concussion early in the season and that likely affected his performance after getting back into the lineup. However, the fact remains that Burke gambled on a kid with just 35 starts under his belt on a team that faces enormous pressure to make the playoffs.
As the Feb. 27 trade deadline approaches, it’ll be interesting to see if Burke pursues a veteran goalie like former Leaf Jean-Sebastien Giguere or Islanders starter Evgeni Nabokov, because if the Leafs don’t at least make the playoffs, the knives will be out in Toronto.
Video: Reimer, Allen shut down dangerous one-timers
In an ideal world, goalie equipment wouldn’t be such an issue. Teams would be able to “get goalies moving” with great passing and chances just about no one could stop.
Then again, there are also those saves that a select handful of humans can pull off. A big reason why there’s only been one goal between the Panthers and Blues tonight is the lateral movement shown by both James Reimer and Jake Allen.
First, watch as Reimer robs Jori Lehtera on what’s likely the save of the night:
Allen really hasn’t been that far behind Reimer, right down to making a similar stop:
Considering the two nearly identical one-timer goals scored by Arizona against Anaheim in finding seams for big passes through opposing defenses, tonight’s goalies might want to do some extra stretching during intermissions.
Dvorak, Coyotes put Ducks in early hole with slick goals (Video)
The Arizona Coyotes’ happy thoughts are mostly centered on the future. Christian Dvorak possibly being more than a guy who put up nice junior numbers with Matthew Tkachuk and Mitch Marner could fuel some really nice thoughts.
He’s been red-hot in February, in particular, including a goal already tonight as the Coyotes raced off to an early 2-0 lead against the Anaheim Ducks.
Check out that smooth play for his 10th goal of 2016-17:
Again, he’s been on quite the roll lately.
February: nine points (and counting?) in nine games
Rest of the season: 13 points in 45 games
He only had one assist in 12 January contests, so this outburst is even more unexpected than the Coyotes racing off to this lead.
Interestingly, the Coyotes two goals looked awfully similar, at least in the finish:
Hmm, that … seems a little crazy. Few players see their best days at age 33 and beyond.
But what about his work with the AHL’s Toronto Marlies? Maybe he’s killing it there.
Well, if he is, his contributions aren’t showing in the simple counting stats. In 22 games this season, Laich has one goal and six points. He isn’t even firing a shot on goal per game (just 17 in those 22 contests).
Now, Laich wouldn’t sell you on his scoring skills. Face-offs might not be much of a calling card, either.
The problem for Laich is he has never been a regular 50+% FO guy in the NHL. Playing a 4th line role for Babcock essentially requires that.
So … it’s easier to understand why he’s struggling to get a foothold in his career. Laich isn’t much of a scorer, isn’t dominant on the draw and isn’t someone who’s shown a history of dramatically tilting the ice in his team’s favor.
Does that mean he can’t be a fourth-line center, or failing that, at least a depth forward? Laich could conceivably be helpful to some team, even if it’s difficult to imagine anyone giving up anything but a minor asset for him.
And, yes, it’s crazy to imagine him exceeding anything he did with the Washington Capitals.
Avalanche say ankle injury ends Nikita Zadorov’s season
Zadorov, 21, is a big defenseman with the pedigree that would inspire teams to imagine better things in the future (16th pick in 2013 by Buffalo). So far, that potential hasn’t really manifested itself in production, whether you judge a player by points, plus/minus or possession numbers.
He may be able to put it together at some point – again, he’s young – so perhaps he’ll remember this as a low point before he turns things around.
At the moment, it’s just another grim part of a bleak time for the Avs.