Toronto Maple Leafs
coach Randy Carlyle would not tip his hand Monday when asked who would start in goal Tuesday night against the powerhouse St. Louis Blues.
No surprise there.
However, if you read between the lines, don't be surprised if the beleaguered James Reimer
gets the start.
Reimer was pulled after allowing three goals in a 3-2 loss
to the New Jersey Devils on Sunday night.
For the seventh game in a row, the slumping Maple Leafs fell behind in the game. Though they fought back from a 3-0 deficit to make a contest of it, they lost nonetheless.
Now the Maple Leafs are in danger of slipping out of the playoffs, and with No. 1 goalie Jonathan Bernier
sidelined with a groin injury, Carlyle has to choose between Reimer, who is feeling all kinds of heat from an upset Leafs Nation, and 30-year-old Marlies goalie Drew MacIntyre
, who came in and stopped all 14 shots he faced in relief against the Devils.
MacIntyre has played in five NHL games in his career, all in relief.
"You make the decision on who you feel is going to give you the best opportunity in the game and that's not going to change," Carlyle said. "What happened last game, sure you take that into consideration, but the most important thing [about] the individual we choose to represent us at that position tomorrow night is we feel confident he can get the job done."
One thing is certain: if Carlyle opts for Reimer and the Blues score an early goal, he'll hear about it from the fans.Injured players skate
Bernier and defenceman Paul Ranger, who was hurt last week
when he was hit into the boards from behind, skated Monday morning at Air Canada Centre. Neither is expected to play against St. Louis.
Given the Maple Leafs' troubles, the sooner Bernier gets back, the better.
"He's been on the ice every day for the past three or four days and is showing improvement," Carlyle said. "I can't tell you that he's going to be available to us tomorrow or the next day or the next day after that. It'll be a decision that will take some thought and the OK from him."
Carlyle was asked if there is additional pressure on Bernier to get back into the lineup because of the team's recent skid, but said that is absolutely not the case.
"We as an organization and staff are always asking the players when they are ready," Carlyle said. "All we can do is ask. The question is, does he feel comfortable, or does any player feel comfortable, they can come back in and give you 100 per cent. Obviously there are pressures when you are not having success, but that is something that has to be a sidebar. The player's health is paramount."Slow starts killing Leafs
It can't be just a fluke that the Maple Leafs have fallen behind in seven straight games. They do not show the same desperation they display when they are playing catch-up hockey.
"I don't know if I agree there is a lack of desperation," Carlyle said. "We have shown when we are a desperate hockey club in parts of the game we can apply pressure and get ourselves back into games. I think the issue for us is we have to focus on the small things right now because if you focus on every little thing that goes wrong out there then you show a lack of confidence. I think we display those things more than a lack of desperation."Mental mistakes costly
Carlyle was critical of a bad line change that led to a Devils goal, but wasn't about to crucify anybody.
"We have stated before, we win and lose as a team," Carlyle said. "There's not a player or a coach in there who hasn't made a mistake. We're all vulnerable to mistakes and that is what the game is made up of. There were mistakes last night on bad changes. We changed in situations we shouldn't have and guys got in behind us.
We pinched when we shouldn't have pinched and gave up a two-on-one. We have to limit our mistakes. We are making too many of them and they are costing us hockey games."
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