Toronto Maple Leafs goalie James Reimer, right, is congratulated by teammate Dion Phaneuf after the Maple Leafs defeated the Boston Bruins 2-1 in Game 5 in Boston on Friday. (Charles Krupa/Associated Press)
He played the game of his life. He lifted his teammates with save after save. Forty-three, in total. The Bruins took over the game in the second period. They hemmed the Maple Leafs in their end. They peppered Reimer.
James Reimer did it. He provided the kind of goaltending the Toronto Maple Leafs needed to stretch their first-round series against the playoff-hardened Boston Bruins to a Game 6.
He played the game of his life on Friday. He lifted his teammates with save after save. Forty-three, in total. The Bruins took over the game in the second period. They hemmed the Maple Leafs in their end. They peppered Reimer.
But even though he's not the smoothest goalie, even though he doesn't catch many pucks and hold on to them, Reimer did enough. He did it.
He remarked afterwards that he didn't put any added pressure on himself. But those who closely had followed this series knew the 25-year-old goalie had to come up with an MVP-type performance. And he did. He did it.
"When you get out there you want to be the best you can for your teammates," he said after his Maple Leafs edged the Bruins 2-1 to return the series back to Toronto for a Sunday evening affair (CBC, CBCSports.ca, 7:30 p.m. ET).
Reimer was cool as a cucumber. But now we're referring to his performance in the dressing room afterwards in front of a gaggle of reporters. He had seen enough action against the Bruins. Now he faced another barrage as question after question was fired at him.
What about the toe save on Patrice Bergeron midway through the second period? How the heck did he get the knob of his stick on Jaromir Jagr's last-second attempt to tie the game? How did he think his mother Marlene got through this nail-biter?
Reimer stood there in his bare feet and blue shorts, fresh from a well-deserved massage with his trademark grin. He didn't look any more pleased about this game, just like he didn't look any more disappointed after the overtime loss back in Toronto on Wednesday.
"My guess is she probably wasn't watching. It was probably too much for her," said Reimer, when asked about his Mom.
As the television replays can attest, Marlene is about as nervous a spectator as you'll find. She often buries her head in her hands because she can't stand to watch.
"It's a skill save," Reimer joked, when queried about save on Jagr. "It's kind of funny I have a couple teammates who hit it quite often and I always bug them about it being a skill save. It's just one of those things when you're trying to throw something in the way of the puck and lucky enough it went off my knob.
"You know that's a lucky bounce. I'd be an idiot if I said you're trying to stop it with your knob."
And the one on Bergeron, in which Reimer stretched his body to its absolute limit?
"I don't know," he said. "I'm not quite sure. You just try to get something over there. I was lucky to get my toe on it. I was lucky he hit my toe because I think he still had some room."
He's a humble, churchgoer from the Mennonite community of Morweena, Man. He became a goalie because his older brother Mark needed somebody to shoot pucks at. He grew up idolizing clutch goaltender Ed Belfour, another NHLer from Manitoba who just happens to be the last Maple Leafs goalie before Reimer to have played in a Stanley Cup game.
While Belfour eventually won a Stanley Cup and was a veteran of many playoff battles, this post-season thing is relatively new to Reimer. Before he skated out to scrape up his crease in the series opener against the Bruins 10 days ago, Reimer had played in only 15 playoff games at a high level - seven in junior with the Red Deer Rebels and eight in the East Coast Hockey League with the South Carolina Stingrays four years ago.
'He was great'
Like most of his Toronto teammates, he's receiving an education that is only going to help his career down the road.
"He was great. He was confident," Maple Leafs veteran left wing Clarke MacArthur said. "He has had two great games in here back-to-back. You can't win without big saves and he did that tonight."
A couple minutes after the toe save, Tyler Bozak put Toronto in front 1-0 with a shorthanded breakaway goal after a giveaway from Bruins defenceman Andrew Ference at the Maple Leafs blue-line.
Then early in the third period, a neutral zone turnover by the Bruins allowed MacArthur to cruise in and score his second goal in as many games after Maple Leafs head coach Randy Carlyle made him a healthy scratch for Games 2 and 3.
"I felt like I was going to get one tonight," MacArthur said. "I had chances early on and to be able to get the game winner like that, it was a great feeling. After getting one last game I just felt likely I would get a good shot and have a good chance at it.
"Luckily enough, I got one tonight."
Luckily enough for MacArthur. Luckily enough for his teammates, Reimer played well. He did it.
Tim WharnsbyTim's worked the sports beat at The Globe and Mail and the Toronto Sun, specializing in Canada's one true sporting obsession - hockey. He knows the players, the coaches, the backroom boys and most importantly, the fans. That's what he brings to his stories. Knowledge, fairness and understanding are trademarks of a Wharnsby story. That's what you will get here as he writes for CBCSports.ca.
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