Maple Leafs goalies aim to regain early season success | Hockey | CBC Sports

Hockey Night in CanadaMaple Leafs goalies aim to regain early season success

Posted: Monday, January 27, 2014 | 06:38 PM

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Jonathan Bernier, left, and James Reimer of the Toronto Maple Leafs after a game against the Calgary Flames at Scotiabank Saddledome on October 30, 2013 in Calgary. (Derek Leung/Getty Images) Jonathan Bernier, left, and James Reimer of the Toronto Maple Leafs after a game against the Calgary Flames at Scotiabank Saddledome on October 30, 2013 in Calgary. (Derek Leung/Getty Images)

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After struggling in the last couple of games, Toronto Maple Leafs goaltenders Jonathan Bernier and James Reimer look to regain that early season confidence and solid performance on ice that has led the team to a successful season so far, writes Mike Brophy. 

For much of this season any success the Toronto Maple Leafs have enjoyed can, for the most part, be attributed to the impressive performance of their goaltenders.

Both Jonathan Bernier and James Reimer have pulled rabbits out of hats and stood on their heads on nights when the team was outshot -- which is more often than not.

Of late, however, they have both sprung as few leaks. It's not like either goalie has completely lost his game, but the certainty that no matter which one of them starts, he will give his team a chance to win, has diminished.

On Saturday in Winnipeg, Manitoba native Reimer got the start and was pulled after allowing four goals in 28:11. They certainly were not all his fault, although a couple that got past him looked stoppable. Two of the four he allowed came on during Jets power plays.

"Unfortunately some pucks are going in right now which is not the way I like it... the way we like it," Reimer said. "Sometimes there's a lapse here and there, but we're working our hardest and we're trying to be the difference. Sometimes it doesn't go your way."

Reimer wears his emotions on his sleeve and when he is pulled, the look of frustration is evident. Still, he tries his hardest not to let his disappointment flow over into his next work day.

"Mentally it's, 'What game in Winnipeg?'," he joked. "Obviously you never want to get pulled, but I felt I had battled back and was making some good saves and they got two quick goals on weird plays. That's what happens. Yesterday I tried to forget about hockey and enjoy life and come back refreshed. Today I felt I had a great practice. All you can control is how hard you work and how much you care."

Bernier was money in the bank early in the season, but he, too, has struggled a bit as the league approaches the Olympic break. He said it's what is between the ears that is most important for those charged with stopping the puck.

"I think the mental preparation is the hardest part for an athlete; to make sure you are ready for the game," Bernier said. "The bottom line to me is to make the saves that I should make and let the team do the work."

Wounded soldiers

It is not a good day when two-thirds of your top line hobbles off the ice at practice. But that was exactly the case Monday at MasterCard Centre in Toronto when right-winger Phil Kessel and left-winger James van Riemsdyk left the ice prematurely.

Kessel, who is seventh in the NHL in scoring with 27 goals and 54 points in 54 games, left the ice for about 10 minutes before returning, but clearly looked uncomfortable.

Van Riemsdyk -- 39th in scoring with 20 goals and 40 points in 52 games -- appeared to injure his leg and spent some time speaking with the team's medical staff. His 40 points, by the way, match his single-season high set in 2010-11 with the Philadelphia Flyers.

"I have been told they are both available tomorrow night," said Leafs coach Randy Carlyle. "We were told before practice that they might only participate in part of the practice."

On the bright side 

Centre David Bolland continues to work hard in an effort to play again this season. The 27-year-old, who has six goals and 10 points in 15 games, has been out with a lacerated tendon since Nov. 2, skated for about 25 minutes before the Maple Leafs practice Monday morning.

Centre Trevor Smith also appears to be getting close to retuning to the lineup. Named captain of the AHL Marlies this season, Smith was summoned to replace Bolland and managed four goals and nine points in 25 games before breaking his hand. He took Kessel's place on the top line during practice.

The week ahead

After being on the road for four straight games, the Maple Leafs will enjoy a three-game home stand with games against three Atlantic Division rivals: the Tampa Bay Lightning (Tuesday), Florida Panthers (Thursday) and Ottawa Senators (Saturday).

The Lightning are riding a three-game winning streak and, with a 6-3-1 record in the past 10 games, sit second in the Atlantic Division with a 31-16-5 record for 67 points -- seven more than the third place Maple Leafs. Toronto has played two more games than Tampa Bay.

One hot Bolt

While superstar Steven Stamkos works hard to return from a broken leg suffered Nov. 11 in an effort to play a few games before competing in the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, his teammate Martin St. Louis battles the shocking disappointment of not being named to the team. The NHL's highest scorer since the 2010 Olympics, was not named to the 25-man roster.

His response? Well, in the 10 games since the team was named Jan. 7, St. Louis has points in all of the games and has amassed eight goals with 14 points. Overall this season, he has 25 goals and 52 points in 52 games; good for 11th in NHL scoring.

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