Leafs look to James Reimer to save season | Hockey | CBC Sports

NHLLeafs look to James Reimer to save season

Posted: Friday, April 4, 2014 | 02:41 PM

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Toronto Maple Leafs netminder James Reimer (34) makes a save in a 4-3 overtime victory over the Boston Bruins on Thursday. (John E. Sokolowski/Reuters) Toronto Maple Leafs netminder James Reimer (34) makes a save in a 4-3 overtime victory over the Boston Bruins on Thursday. (John E. Sokolowski/Reuters)

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With four games remaining, the Toronto Maple Leafs will rest their playoff hopes on the inconsistent shoulders of backup goaltender James Reimer.  

You cheer for him because he is a wonderful person. You cheer for him because he is an underdog. You cheer for him because sports is about watching a player or team try to succeed in seemingly impossible situations.

But the reality of the situation is the Toronto Maple Leafs are in deep trouble with four games remaining, their playoff hopes hanging by a thread and James Reimer between the pipes.

Reimer lost his starter's job to Jonathan Bernier this season. But with Bernier now out for up to three weeks with a strained medial collateral ligament in his left knee, Reimer will have to carry the mail.

The Morweena, Man., native will be in goal when the Maple Leafs host the Winnipeg Jets on Saturday night (CBC, CBCSports.ca, 7 p.m. ET). That's the same Jets who just happened to light him up Jan. 25 to the tune of four goals on 19 shots. Reimer was pulled from that game and the Maple Leafs lost 5-4 in overtime.

Following practice on Friday morning, Reimer was asked about his mindset now that he will be the team's starter for the remainder of the regular season.

"Just work my butt off and do my part and try to get us in the playoffs," he said.

On Thursday, Reimer was sent in midway through the third period with Toronto leading 3-2 over the Boston Bruins. And while he allowed one goal on 11 shots in regulation and overtime, he wound up getting the win. It was Reimer's first victory in six appearances, making him 2-6 in his last eight games.

Reimer saved the day. But can he rescue the season?

After the game, he admitted it crossed his mind that, with the Maple Leafs using Bernier in every game down the stretch, he may have already played his final game in blue and white.

"Lots of things go through your mind and, obviously, that was one of them," Reimer said. "That's a plausible train of thought.

"I actually told my wife [April] before I left for the rink [Thursday], I had a feeling I was going in. I didn't know why.

"Sometimes, you just get those feelings. I dismissed that with 12 minutes left in the third, but I was ready."

Reimer said sitting on the bench the past few weeks has taught him to battle adversity and stay positive. He added his faith in God has been a huge help in allowing him to keep things in perspective. Now he's ready for the challenge of being the team's No. 1 goalie again.

"Obviously, I'm going to take the opportunity and run with it," he said. "I hope Bernie is going to be alright.

"You never want to see a teammate and a friend go down. Injuries suck, especially at this time of the year.

"I'm going to go in there and try to give the guys a chance. I have belief in this team and I know we have the passion and desire to get it done."

Reimer will be a restricted free agent this summer and the chances of him returning to the Maple Leafs are slim. He wants to be a starter. But with Bernier ahead of him on the depth chart, that is not possible in Toronto.

Reimer has shown at times in the past two seasons he can come up big for the Maple Leafs. However, when it comes to controlling rebounds, catching the puck with his trapper and playing the puck with his stick, there is a drop-off compared to Bernier. In the final four games, it will be all about making saves.

Reimer believes he is up to the task. Time will tell if he is right.

Living the dream

With Bernier injured and unable to practice, the Maple Leafs turned to Ryerson University goalie Troy Passingham to fill in Friday morning. Passingham, 23, played in the OHL with the Windsor Spitfires and Sarnia Sting. The six-foot-five, 200-pound stopper has played the past three seasons with Ryerson.

Day-to-day and doubtful

Left-winger Joffrey Lupul missed Thursday's game with a lower-body injury and has been listed as both day-to-day and doubtful for Saturday's game against the Jets. He took a few twirls around the ice Friday, albeit rather gingerly. There is some speculation he tweaked a groin injury that has bothered him at times this season.

MIA at MC

Phil Kessel, James van Riemsdyk and David Bolland were all absent from practice at MasterCard Centre. Maple Leafs head coach Randy Carlyle assured they were all taking maintenance days.

Follow Mike Brophy on Twitter @HockeyBroph

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