James Reimer improved to 4-0 in the shootout this season with his 2-1 victory over the Phoenix Coyotes
at home Thursday night. Reimer played superbly helping the struggling
Maple Leafs snap a two-game losing streak, writes Mike Brophy.
Heading into this season just about the last thing the Toronto Maple Leafs wanted was a game to go to the shootout with James Reimer between the pipes.
The Morweena, Man., native was a miserable 2-9 in the shootout.
Times have changed.
With his 2-1 shootout victory over the Phoenix Coyotes at home Thursday night, Reimer is now 4-0 in shootouts this season. With his team struggling mightily, Reimer played superbly helping the Maple Leafs snap a two-game losing streak.
Reimer got the start over Jonathan Bernier and played his best game in a while. After five straight games of allowing three goals (which was preceded by a game in which he allowed six), Reimer was solid making 34 saves.
After the 3-1 loss to Florida, Reimer said: "Injuries...tired...it's all B.S. Those are excuses and they are useless. What it comes down to is your will, heart and character."
Reimer, for one, showed will, heart and character against the Coyotes.
He was quite impressed with his team's effort.
"We all make mistakes and sometimes don't show up the way we want to and you are judged on how you respond," Reimer said. "I thought we did a great job tonight. We really came collectively and everybody bought in."
Carlyle paid tribute to his goalie after the game.
"When you are in situations like we have been in for the last little while you are always looking for somebody to step up for you," Toronto coach Randy Carlyle said. "Our goaltending has been one of our strongest suits and both guys have given us A-level quality goaltending all year. Tonight was just another example of James Reimer stepping up and we are very fortunate to have him."
Right-winger Troy Bodie got his name on the game sheet Monday in Pittsburgh by participating in two fights. He did it in a much less painful fashion against Phoenix when he scored his first goal as a Maple Leaf to give his team a 1-0 lead at 15:51 of the first period. The six-foot-five, 225-pound Bodie set an effective screen in front of the Phoenix net and then slipped home a backhander on a rebound of a Cody Franson shot from the point. It was his seventh goal in his 120th NHL game. Bodie's last big league goal came March 9, 2011 against the Atlanta Thrashers.
Bodie, by the way, played the least amount of any skater in the game; three shifts and just 2:28 ice time.
Carlyle said he felt bad that he didn't play his fourth line much in the contest, but added when Phoenix didn't play its fourth line, he continued to match lines.
"Any time you can get a contribution from your fourth line it's a huge bonus for the rest of your group," Carlyle said. "It elevates their value in their room and their self-worth."
Top line struggles
Toronto's top line of centre Nazem Kadri, left-winger James van Riemsdyk and right-winger Phil Kessel generated some good scoring chances against Phoenix, but wasn't able to score in regulation or overtime. Kessel is now 1-2-3 in his last seven games while Kadri is 1-1-2 and van Riemsdyk is 1-0-1.
Kessel had an amazing opportunity to give his team a 2-1 lead with less than four minutes remaining in the third period, but he was stonewalled by Phoenix goalie Mike Smith on a quick shot from right on the doorstep.
Van Riemsdyk also had a chance to win it for the Maple Leafs in overtime when he tried to jam the puck in from the side of the net with just over a minute remaining. Van Riemsdyk did manage a goal in the shootout.
Twice in the second period the Maple Leafs had power plays cut short because they took penalties. With Phoenix's Oliver Ekman-Larsson sent off for delay of game at 1:07, Toronto defenceman Cody Franson took a tripping penalty 1:03 later. Then with Gilbert Brule off for hooking at 13:58, Toronto defender Morgan Rielly was nabbed for the same offence 46 seconds later.
Rielly is an NHLer
To the surprise of few, the Maple Leafs announced Wednesday they would not be sending 19-year-old defenceman Morgan Rielly to play in the World Junior Championship. In 27 games, the Vancouver, B.C., native has a goal and 10 points and is a team-worst minus-12. That said, he has shown a lot of maturity in terms of his ability to carry the puck coast-to-coast and control the pace of the game. Rielly averaged more than 19 minutes of ice time in four of Toronto's previous four games leading up to Thursday's game.
Rielly made a great play in overtime, stripping Mike Ribeiro of the puck in the Toronto zone and then racing the length of the ice and firing a shot that nearly beat Phoenix goalie Mike Smith.
Odd man out
For now it looks like Paul Ranger is the odd man out on the Maple Leafs blue line. The 29-year-old sat out his fourth straight game against the Coyotes.
Mike BrophyMike Brophy brings a wealth of hockey writing and broadcasting experience to CBC Sports, having covered junior hockey for 14 years before joining The Hockey News as its senior writer for 17 years starting in 1992. Most recently, the Burlington, Ont., native worked as a writer/commentator at Rogers Sportsnet and as co-host of The Power Play on SiriusXM. Mike has written four books, including My First Goal, featuring 50 players describing their first NHL goals.