A week or so ago, when the Leafs had just beaten the Kings in LA, a loss in Washington (that could easily have gone the other way) seemed like it was just another sidestep in a long but generally hopeful season for the blue and white.
Days later, fans are left wondering if the season is on the brink of, well, something short of a playoff spot.
My guess is many will put this all at the feet of James Reimer. While I would have liked to have seen him play a lot better since the third period of the Detroit game, I am not inclined to say this is all about goaltending.
I recognize that the prevailing view is that “the team has actually played better lately, but the goaltending stinks”. While there may be some merit in that assessment, I’m not sure the problems don’t go beyond that.
I’ll only share a few comments, and then leave you to ponder where the Leafs are a:
- MacIntyre did all that could be asked of him, in a very difficult situation—and more.
- Bolland seemed less noticeable in his second game back, not surprisingly so given what a huge adjustment it must be after being out of the lineup for so long.
- As tough a night as it was for Reimer, the Leafs were still allowing breakaways (I thought I counted two) against a team that struggles to create any offence.
- I liked Kadri coming out publicly in support of Reimer before the game—a sign of a teammate saying the right things to support someone who is going through a tough time. If only the coach had the same instincts, some of this might have been averted days ago. (Did anyone notice that Don Cherry said, on Saturday night, what I’ve been saying here for months—that Reimer needs to play somewhere else?)
- Rielly and Gardiner have played some of their most poised, confident and eye-popping hockey during this losing skid.
- Will Clarkson be a better fit next season, when he has a better sense of how the Leafs play and what his role needs to be here? (Though I’m not sure I know “how” they play, and I’ve been watching all season…)
The Leafs deserve credit for coming back yet again—they continue to fall just short. If they were receiving the kind of netminding that was the standard most nights earlier this season, there seems little doubt the outcome in some of these recent games would have been different.
So where do the Leafs go from here? Are you still confident about the playoffs? Is this all on Reimer?