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Who made the Giggy call and the resilient Reimer

Ron Wilson suggested after Monday night's game that young Reimer looked “tired” in that loss earlier in the week against the Lightning.  Then Wilson, with his usual game-day charm, turned around and told reporters before the game in Florida Thursday night that the rookie netminder wasn't tired after all.

Nonetheless, the organization (I'm not convinced it was Wilson's call) decided Reimer would have the night off against the Panthers.  Fair enough, I guess.  The Leafs needed a win, but was it realistic to think Reimer could keep going game after game?  I don't really know.

So the Leafs made their decision, hoping to squeeze a good performance out of Giguere (even though he hadn't started a game in ages) and run to the team bus after the game with two points in hand.

Here's what we know:  this is still an under-talented team.  On a really good night, they are a competitive team.  (They certainly have been, most nights, a hard-working team this season.)  And when they are playing well, you could describe some of their guys as true modern-day "top-six" NHL forwards, as everyone likes to talk about nowadays.

But some nights, it feels like they have very few high-end forwards.  And over the past half-dozen games, they've, understandably, had a hard time putting together great games back-to-back.  I say understandably, because this is a team that has had to almost run the table since the All-Star break just to get to this point.  It's been an intruiging run, but despite a lot of wins, they are still out of a playoff spot.  It's awfully hard not to be able to have any off-nights in this league.  And right now, they are paying the price for not being successful enough before the All-Star break.  A loss in Florida isn't the real problem.

Not to sound trite, but these guys are human.  They get tired.  They are a very young squad, they get all pumped up after a big win and it's not easy for teams to bounce right back with another huge effort.  We see that kind of back and forth shift every spring with a lot of teams come playoff time. (We saw that during the Leaf playoff runs in 1993 and '94, and again in '99 and '02. It was tough to generate two great efforts in a row.)

Could we really expect them to win every night down the stretch?  They've actually come pretty close.  It's not like the teams they are playing aren't trying to win, too.

The only real concern I have about starting Giggy (given the outcome) going forward is this: will fans now say, "Well, what if Reimer had played?  Would the team have responded better in a big game with Reimer in goal?"  What I mean is it kind of gives us yet another excuse if the Leafs don't make the playoffs.  We'll lay it on Wilson's doorstep and say, "What if Reimer had started the game in Florida...?" rather than acknowledging one loss in Florida is not the reason the Leafs may miss the playoffs again. (Lack of top-six forwards, anemic power-play many nights, prolonged ineffective play after the first four games of the season are the more likely culprits...)


I have to tip my hat to Reimer.  He proved again, as good athletes do,  that every day is indeed a new day when he was rock solid in the huge win on the road against the Hurricanes on the road on Wednesday night.

The Reimer “story” has been told, well…a lot—here and elsewhere.  He came out of nowhere, with the benefit of no expectations and stunned Leaf followers with capable, consistent play that we haven’t seen since….Belfour?

And he has been darned nice about it all along the way, in good times and not-so-good times.

But the young man, while apparently a very good person and all that, is an intense guy, too.  While we are all taking turns reporting on how scouts and opposing players are finding multiple flaws in his game (name a goalie that doesn’t have flaws…), he has rebounded, so far at least, with an inspired performance after every relative shellacking.

(I was among those surprised that he got the start in Carolina.  Wilson had indicated Giggy would go in.  It turned out Giguere's turn came in Florida.  But as I said in my post earlier this week, I was good with whatever the organization wanted to do.  If they felt Reimer was their best bet in a big game (after his rough outing against Tampa), or felt they didn’t want to do anything to harm his confidence, then whatever approach they truly believed was best for him worked for me.  That Reimer played, and played well, was all the better.)

And he’s apparently loyal, too.  Various media reports Thursday suggested he evidently didn’t like hearing that players from (insert the Lightning) were implying he was just another “Francois Allaire” (think robot, perhaps) pupil.  He defended his coach to anyone who would listen—and there are always plenty of those covering the Leafs.

In any event, to be clear, I am among those who have loved his early NHL days.  Name the Leaf fans who haven’t?  His attitude is refreshing, for sure.  Most importantly, he can play.  If the opposition finds his flaws the second time around the league, or next season, or whenever, well, that’s the same thing every NHL goalie faces in the best league in the world.

Will he be an all-time great? A flash-in-the-pan?  A steady, reliable back-up?  A really good number one with the Leafs?

I have no idea.  Neither, in truth, does anyone else.  Over the past fifty years I’ve seen a lot of impressive young goalies come into the NHL.  Some “last”, some shine for a while, some don’t stick around.

All I know is what I see right now:  a solid young goalie who, like anyone, will have off-nights and will need a break sometimes, too.  But a young man who can play his position and seems to bring a maturity- along with some other intangibles- that make him a keeper for the foreseeable future.

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