Montreal Canadiens v Toronto Maple Leafs

James Reimer exhilarates Leafs fans with 32-save shutout


Don’t blame Toronto Maple Leafs fans for feeling exhilarated right now, even if it’s just one game.

The team still has unsolved questions – the most pressing one might regard the health of center Tim Connolly – but two of their wild cards came up aces in a 2-0 win against the Montreal Canadiens tonight. James Reimer looked sharp in his first game of the season, stopping 32 shots on his way to a shutout. Reimer earned the Maple Leafs’ first opening night shutout since Oct. 7, 2000, when the team produced another 2-0 win against the Montreal Canadiens. (Curtis Joseph was the Leafs goalie on that night, making 26 saves.)

Judging Reimer’s outlook based on one game is even more dangerous than assuming that his first 25 NHL games are a clear indication of the future, but it was still a great performance. The Maple Leafs were out-shot 32-18 in their season opener, but Reimer was the biggest difference-maker.

As if that wasn’t dazzling enough, the Leafs enjoyed great nights from their sometimes-criticized marquee players. That was most clearly seen in the game’s insurance goal; Phil Kessel made a heads-up play and then sent a nice pass to captain Dion Phaneuf, who rifled a shot past Carey Price.

Coming back from tough injuries

Leafs fans might have seen those performances coming, but Matthew Lombardi’s contribution was far more surprising. He didn’t just manage to play earlier than expected in his first game back from concussion issues; Lombardi notched the game-winning goal on a rebound while playing shorthanded. Lombardi and Mike Brown created a rush on the penalty kill, as a shot sent Carey Price to the ground. Price couldn’t get up in time to stop Lombardi, who pounced on a rebound to score his first goal since April 10, 2010.

Overall, it was quality over quantity for Lombardi, though. He only played a little more than 11 minutes and took just two faceoffs (which he lost). You can understand head coach Ron Wilson’s decision to ease him back into the lineup, though.

Speaking of players returning from tough injuries, Max Pacioretty played in his first regular season game since that ill-fated Zdeno Chara hit last season. The up-and-coming Habs winger played a bit more than 15 minutes, threw two hits, took four shots and had a -1 rating.


Again, some Toronto fans are probably dreaming of watching their players shake open champagne bottles and raise the Stanley Cup, but most are reasonable enough to put this win in perspective. Seeing a sharp Reimer and a healthy Lombardi – not to mention good games from Phaneuf and Kessel – won’t make them feel glum, though, either.

Brian Burke warns James Reimer about instant success, won’t chase Steven Stamkos

Brian Burke

Despite “missing” the first day of free agency to some criticism, Toronto Maple Leafs GM Brian Burke has been making some nice moves this off-season. It’s almost like the old, savvy Burkie is back after making some big, questionable investments via trades for Dion Phaneuf and Phil Kessel.

Burke re-signed Clarke MacArthur and Tyler Bozak to cap-friendly deals and fleeced teams for two promising defenseman (John-Michael Liles and Cody Franson). It’s unclear if the Tim Connolly gamble will pay off, but it seems like a lower risk move than the Brad Richards mortgage many were clamoring for.

That being said, there are no guarantees that these subtler moves will push the Maple Leafs far enough to make a true playoff bid. Burke addressed two questions that might be essential to that process today.

1. Will James Reimer be a one-hit wonder?

It seemed like Toronto suddenly resembled an actual playoff team once Reimer took the reins as the team’s interim No. 1 goalie. Reimer earned 20 wins, a sterling .921 save percentage, 2.60 GAA and even became a meme generator when ingenious Maple Leafs bloggers made an ode to him via a parody of that odious “Friday” song.

Of course, the NHL landscape is littered with the broken dreams of guys who enjoyed all-too-brief runs of goalie stardom. The Columbus Blue Jackets are actively praying that such a fate isn’t in the works for their should-be franchise goalie Steve Mason. Burke brought that subject up to Reimer, asking the young goalie to Google two infamous names in the one-hit wonder tradition: Jim Carey and Steve Penny. Burke simply asked Reimer not to turn into them.

Too bad being an NHL-level goalie isn’t as easy as using a search engine, though.

2. Will Burke go after Steven Stamkos with an offer sheet?

Speaking of not turning into something you’d rather avoid, there is the question that Burke might mortgage some of his team’s future to send an offer sheet to Steven Stamkos or Drew Doughty. Burke notoriously fumed when then-Edmonton Oilers GM Kevin Lowe poached Dustin Penner from the Anaheim Ducks a few years back. He somewhat amusingly avoided snatching Phil Kessel via an offer sheet by sending a bit more than he would have given up for the contract in a trade to the Boston Bruins. (That package netted the Bruins Tyler Seguin and Dougie Hamilton among other assets.)

So will Burke defy his former stance for the sake of swinging for a personnel home run? While Burke lamented losing out on Brad Richards because the team didn’t front-load the deal enough, he denied the urge to send an offer sheet to one of those stars.


Even so, Burke said he thinks that the team has improved and I’m inclined to agree. It’s unclear if Burke took a deep breath and decided to do things his way (rather than bowing to ownership and/or public pressures to make a huge, risky move again), but the results have been promising so far. The Maple Leafs still are a bit lacking in flat-out elite talent, but they’re finally moving in the right direction this off-season. Some might actually listen to the idea that the Leafs are a genuine contender for a playoff spot.

That probably sounds even better to a Leafs fans’ ears than a rousing rendition of “Reimer.”

Toronto re-signs goalie James Reimer to three-year, $5.4 million deal

James Reimer

Last year’s biggest surprise in Toronto was that the Leafs weren’t a terrible team. Much of that was thanks to the rise of goaltender James Reimer. Reimer seized the starting role after Jean-Sebastien Giguere proved to be mostly ineffective and Jonas Gustavsson was both ineffective and often injured. With Reimer proving himself worthy, the Leafs rewarded the impending restricted free agent with a three-year $5.4 million contract extension.

Leafs GM Brian Burke made the right move in locking up Reimer but giving him such a deal works out nicely for both sides. If he plays well, the Leafs get a bargain and Reimer makes good money to be a hero in Toronto. If he struggles, then the Leafs can squirrel him away in the minor leagues without much pain delivered to the salary cap. With a hit of $1.8 million per season, that’s not too bad.

Reimer did great in sporting a 20-10-5 record with a 2.60 goals against average and a .920 save percentage. Without Reimer, the Leafs likely sputter to a bottom five finish in the league and hand the Boston Bruins yet another extreme lottery draft selection in doing so. Reimer’s play kept the Leafs in the talk for the playoffs until the final week of the season and has given Leafs fans hope that they’ve got their goalie of the future.

The Leafs will now head into next season with the goalie rotation set to be Reimer as the starter and Gustavsson as the backup. Failing that, young guys like Ben Scrivens and Jussi Rynnas will be waiting in the wings in the AHL. Some may be critical of the Leafs for a lot of things, but one area where they’re all set at throughout the organization is in goal. Here’s to hoping that “Optimus Reim” can build on his legend in Toronto.

Now that he’s being paid like a top goalie he’s going to have to make sure that his first season wasn’t an aberration