Tim Gleason; Jake Gardiner; Jonathan Bernier;

On Bernier, Reimer and the Leafs’ crease

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It’s hard to believe that James Reimer seems primed to suit up with the Toronto Maple Leafs (and presumably back up Jonathan Bernier) next season, but that is the case.

And — as it turns out — that could be a very, very good thing.

Bernier’s often-stellar play was probably the main reason the Maple Leafs stayed in the playoff picture as long as they did in 2013-14, but the bottom line is that the 26-year-old goalie still only has 117 games of NHL experience under his belt, and fairly close to half (55) of those came last season. In fact, his previous career-high for appearances in a season was just 25.

Bernier’s career numbers — as scant as they are — indicate that he could be for real. Still, goalies are an unpredictable lot, and Reimer represents one of the most qualified backups (or even 1B goalies) you’ll come by next season.

Reimer, also 26, actually has a little bit of extra experience under his belt (140 career games played). Reimer’s career save percentage is .914, not all that far behind Bernier’s .918 mark. He even has two nice statistical seasons under his belt, (20-10-5 with a .921 save percentage in 2010-11 and 19-8-5 with a .924 save percentage in 2012-13).

While many other teams have made long-term commitments to goalies with mixed results, Bernier’s on an expiring deal and Reimer still has much to prove with just a two-year contract. Netminders probably don’t really enjoy fighting for reps and dealing with uncertain futures … but that doesn’t mean their NHL teams can’t benefit from that motivation.

Just ask Reimer, who told Sportsnet earlier this summer he believes the starting job is up for grabs.

Sportsnet: In your mind, are you Jonathan Bernier’s backup or are you coming into camp intent on winning the No. 1 job?

Reimer: Yeah, obviously the latter. I was told there’s a definite opportunity. That’s the mindset I’m coming in with, to really take advantage of the opportunity that’s been given and earn the No. 1 spot.

In other words, it might not have been the prettiest process, but the Maple Leafs might have backed into a great situation in net.

Fights, hits and a blown kiss: Stars and Blues get nasty

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Things were getting out of hand between the Dallas Stars and St. Louis Blues on the scoreboard in an eventual 6-1 Blues win.

They were also getting a little raucous on the ice when it was clear that the Stars weren’t going to stage a comeback.

Jamie Benn was whistled for cross-checking Alex Pietrangelo, but it was Stephen Johns‘ hit from behind on Pietrangelo really revved up the violence.

Watch that hit and then the scrum that ensued in the video above, which included a scary display of an angry Ryan Reaves … who got creative at the end.

You may also want the kiss alone, so here it is:

Memo: rough stuff might not work so well against the Blues.

Read about that blowout here.

Blues bombard Stars, go up 2-1 in series

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Sometimes a final score is misleading. In the case of the St. Louis Blues’ 6-1 thrashing of the Dallas Stars, it might just be the start of the story.

Honestly, the most positive thing the Stars can say is “Well, at least it was just one game.”

It was one ugly game, however, and now the Blues hold a 2-1 series lead with a chance to really take control if they can win Game 4 at home.

The Blues dominated just about every category on Tuesday, firing more shots on goal, enjoying better special teams play and throwing more hits. They even blocked a higher number of shots, which often isn’t the case for the squad that carries play.

This leaves the Stars picking up the pieces, especially when it comes to their work in their own end.

Do you put greater blame on struggling goalies Kari Lehtonen and Antti Niemi or is this more about the Stars’ lax defensive coverage? The scary answer may be “Both,” and the Stars likely know that they need to find answers quickly.

On the bright side for Dallas, it is just one game … and the Blues were searching for answers of their own after Game 1.

We saw the Blues turn things around with these two straight wins, so now the Stars must show that they can gather themselves and play the attacking, out-score-your-mistakes style that got them here.

Granted, they may have to keep an eye out for supplemental discipline after some rough stuff toward the end of the game.

Predators smash Sharks to get back in series

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After a dispiriting 1-0 goal allowed by Pekka Rinne, things were looking bleak for the Nashville Predators for a moment there.

Nashville’s developed into a resilient group, however, and they stormed back for a commanding 4-1 win to shrink San Jose’s series advantage to 2-1.

The Predators saw some of their big names come up huge as the series shifted from San Jose to Nashville.

Pekka Rinne looked sharp following that first goal (and didn’t allow another). Their goals came from James Neal, Colin Wilson, Filip Forsberg and captain Shea Weber.

Weber’s tally was the game-winner, and it was downright thunderous:

Another promising sign: after a struggling to a 2-for-31 clip in previous playoff games, the Predators’ power play went 2-for-5 in Game 3.

Overall, the Predators really couldn’t ask for much more from this win, especially if Colton Sissons is indeed OK after a scary crash into the Sharks’ net.

Things could get really interesting if Nashville manages to “hold serve” with another home win on Thursday.

Stars’ goalie carousel goes around again: Lehtonen replaces Niemi

Dallas Stars goalie Antti Niemi (31) subs in for goalie Kari Lehtonen (32) during the third period of an NHL hockey game, Tuesday, Dec. 8, 2015, in Dallas. The Stars won 6-5. (AP Photo/LM Otero)
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It’s pretty tough not to make jokes about the Dallas Stars spending $10.4 million on their goalies at times like these, even if Dallas’ defense should shoulder plenty of blame.

After Kari Lehtonen was pulled from a Game 2 loss, the St. Louis Blues chased Antti Niemi early in the second period of Game 3 after Niemi allowed three goals on 12 shots.

Troy Brouwer‘s 3-1 goal was enough for Lindy Ruff to give Niemi the hook:

Unfortunately for the Stars, Lehtonen got off to a slow start as well, allowing an immediate Vladimir Tarasenko goal.

The Blues are now 4-1 and the Stars are searching for answers … and probably wishing Tyler Seguin was around to help them out-score their problems.