While it was not exactly the their finest hour, the Leafs earned a big point and could have snuck away with more against the equally resilient Islanders Tuesday night.
The posts were good to Reimer, but he also made some huge saves as the game went on to ensure, once again, the Leafs got at least a point. It was hard to miss Brent's hustle, Kulemin sticking his nose in the slot to re-direct Grabbo's pass to make it 3-3, and earlier, Armstrong's move on Brent's goal- not to mention Aulie's first NHL goal.
Gunnarsson, Schenn and Phaneuf all played huge minutes and were "even" on the night. Lebda was minus 2 in only 8 minutes and that will likely be discussed at length by Leaf supporters, many of whom are already not fans of the veteran Leaf blueliner.
Wilson was back to his acerbic self with the media after the game, but he certainly has guided this team to a comeback of significant proportions since the All-Star break. The power-play remains, for the moment at least, in a swoon, but the Leafs continue to earn points.
Credit to the Islanders, as well. They are clearly morphing into a team with some future upside.
Is it possible that James Reimer is as nice a guy as he is a good goaltender?
Because he has played so well—and no one in
thought the young man would spend a minute in goal for the Leafs this season—his “style” and mechanics are being scrutinized even more than usual. Toronto
No Leaf goalie, especially a kid goalie, can be this good, right? There have to be flaws, eh?
Well, yes, he has flaws. What goalie doesn’t? Will he be able to keep this up indefinitely? Probably not. Most young guys don't, when they come into the league like this. But the real question is whether he can keep getting better, and become a reliable (or even better than that) NHL starting goaltender.
Are teams scouting him? Of course. Are players being told to shoot high? Sure. (In today’s NHL, given the style most goalies use, name the goalies you don’t try to shoot high against? They all cover the bottom of the net…where else are you gonna shoot?)
So whether Reimer can maintain this, I have no idea. He will hit bumps in the road, and the key will be how he handles himself when that happens. But I suspect he is competitive enough (and seemingly humble enough) that he will not rest on his very early, unproven laurels. He will, I believe, work hard in the off-season to get better.
But regardless of his on-ice heroics (or lack thereof at times), most of us would have to admit we have been captivated just as much by his off-ice demeanor as by his sometimes stunningly productive displays in the Maple Leaf net.
In post-game scrums, he acknowledges his own mistakes, and does so in a way that doesn't come across as phony. Rather, he just accepts responsibility. (The other night, after losing to Chicago, he basically said, “I mean, it’s a team game, but I’ve got to make some saves there, somewhere, you know...” Great line.) When he gives up a bad goal, he just talks like, stuff happens and I’ll have to be better next time.
He is refreshingly candid, seems to be genuinely nice, someone you would like to have as a classmate, teammate, whatever.
He appears to be enjoying his new-found celebrity, but doesn’t seem impressed by it. (Didn’t he say a few weeks ago he feels guilty getting paid as much as he does?) I’m not sure how long this attitude can last. We often see young guys come into town and they are seemingly nice, “aw-shucks”, but over time, the media attention (and criticism) gets to them and/or they get a big head. They become less open, more distrustful, much more wary and less engaging.
Right now, though, this young man is a breath of fresh air. If you weren’t a Leaf fan before, he would almost be enough to make you want to become one.