I mean, it wasn’t the best goaltending performance of the NHL season, I’m sure. Maybe not even the best by a Leaf netminder, given that Bernier has excelled in almost every game he has played in so far. But it was a stellar ‘comeback’ game for the likeable Leaf goalie, in light of his struggles in Game 3 against Ottawa—a game that seems like it happened a month ago.
Reimer was very good at times, and yes, fortunate at times. But isn’t that almost always the way? When a guy plays well, he usually gets a few bounces along the way, too.
The Bernier/Reimer dynamic is one that, as I’ve said here before, may not end well in the long run, but for now, it’s working and that’s what matters for Leaf fans starved for quality goaltending—and also for signs that this is a team that can rise above the relative mediocrity in the Eastern Conference and establish themselves as a top team in the Conference.
I’m guessing this was a game that drives the anti-Randy element of Leafworld around the bend a little bit. The Wild out shot and out-chanced the Leafs by quite a margin (as happened a fair bit last season) and yet Toronto managed to grab the two points. This is not to suggest that longstanding concerns about puck possession and giving away two many chances for the opposition are not valid. But the Leafs (yet again) won a game they probably should not have won, as they did quite often a year ago. Special teams (and goaltending) will cover-up a lot of flaws, eh?
Bottom line, at least for the moment? Well, there are a number of factors. The Leafs score enough to win. Whoever is called up (what with the injuries and absences) to play on the third or fourth lines seem to do their job. Guys like Bolland and McClement do the little, often hardly noticed things that make a difference between winning and losing. (Kadri coming back to sweep a rebound from Reimer’s crease - and out of harm’s way - midway through the third period helped, too.) Mason Raymond has been a factor most of this season, and not everyone in Vancouver likely figured on that. Heck, Kessel hasn’t even really heated up yet. (And that was a nice ‘team’ thing, Kessel not redirecting Raymond’s last-minute empty-netter, so the ex-Canuck could get credit for the goal…)
Yes, it’s a nice little recipe right now.
As for the goaltending, rather than thinking back to the era of Bester and Wreget in the ‘80s (which I tend to do), when the Leafs had two talented young goalies but neither ever quite was fully comfortable with the back and forth arrangement, maybe, in the short term, this can be more like Johnny Bower and Terry Sawchuk in the ‘60s. That was a very different time, of course, and they were two very different goaltenders (from each other, and from what the Maple Leafs have now), but the two future Hall-of-Famers set their egos aside and shared the net after both being the top guy with their respective clubs for years—Bower (right) with the Leafs and Sawchuk with the Red Wings (for the most part- he spent some time in Boston, too). In fact, I believe it was in Sawchuk’s first season with Toronto (1964-‘65) that he won the Vezina Trophy, given in those days to the individual goalie who played the most games for the team that allowed the fewest goals over the course of the regular season. (It’s the Jennings Trophy these days, right?)
In any event, Sawchuk played 36 games that season (out of 70). Bower played 34. The league was going to give the trophy only to Sawchuk, but he insisted that Bower’s name go on the trophy as well, or he wouldn't accept it. Two years later, in a swan song of sorts for both (though they did each play on into the early years of expansion; Bower with the Leafs, of course, and Sawchuk with the Kings and Rangers and maybe even the Wings again, as I recall), they were integral in helping win a Cup for our guys in the spring of 1967.
I’m not predicting that just yet, of course, but these two (much younger) goalies are giving us some early season thrills, at least.