James Reimer: End goal is to be ‘the guy’
By Tony Ambrogio (@SNTonyAmbrogio)
James Reimer was hoping to make a good impression in front of friends and family in his home province on Saturday.
“We felt it would be the decision to let a guy play in his hometown,” said Randy Carlyle of his decision to start Reimer against the Jets on Saturday, in what would be Reimer’s 4th start in 16 games.
In the end it turned out to be the wrong move. Reimer struggled allowing 4 goals on 19 shots. The first shot he faced trickled behind him.
The rest of the game wasn’t much better.
Reimer’s poor outing continued a trend that has been apparent over the last month – and as a result any hope of regaining the number one job in the Toronto goal may have disappeared.
“Obviously for myself, you want to find a way -whether it’s the second, third or fourth one to keep it to find a way to make those saves,” Reimer said after the game.
“The first two goals were goals that I thought were scored in the middle of the net and those are tough ones,” said Carlyle. “He came out in the 2nd period and made some big saves – made a stop on breakaway – and battled hard for our hockey club. And then the next 2 goals, it was more mercy, cause one was a deflection and the other was post and in, and we needed a little bit of a change.”
Playing time may be hard to come by as the Leafs don’t play back to back games until March.
“It’s tough when you get in there and you don’t have a good game,” admitted Reimer. “It doesn’t sit well. Obviously it’s harder if you don’t play. I mean if you can get back right in there and prove yourself again. In a case like this where things aren’t going that way it makes it a little tougher.”
It has been a poor month for the Maple Leafs netminder. He started 4 games and was pulled once, while sporting a save percentage of .865 in January.
In fact his save percentage has dropped each month – along with Randy Carlyle’s confidence in him.
Reimer had a .949 save percentage in October, it fell to .916 in November, and dropped to .909 in December.
It has become abundantly clear that Carlyle has more trust and confidence in Jonathan Bernier, who has made a career high 32 starts this season. Reimer has started 22 games.
“Your end goal is to be the guy and you want that, but you’ve got to focus on everyday what I need to do so that that can happen,” said Reimer. “It’s like I want to win the Cup, but it’s not like every day I hit the ice I’m going to win the Cup. I want to win the Cup, but when I hit the ice it’s what do I need to do to be the best I can be. And if you focus on that everyday then eventually the Cup will come.”
“Same with this (situation). It’s obviously something you want. It’s something you really want. But you’ve got to focus on a lot smaller goals.”
A year ago, Reimer battled with Ben Scrivens for the starter’s job and in the end won the job. In a lockout-shortened season, Reimer finished with the eighth best save percentage on the league (.911) and helped the Leafs get into the playoffs.
This year has not only been a struggle physically, but also a mental challenge for him.
“It’s 105 per cent mental, I think, this game,” said Reimer. “It’s all about trying to be in the right mindset and trying to stay positive and knowing that when you have the extra time to work on stuff that’s what you’ve got to do. You’ve got to work your butt off so that when you get the nod you’re as prepared as you can (be).”
He knows his long-term future in Toronto isn’t guaranteed. He’s a restricted free-agent after the season. Bernier has another year on his deal.
“I feel like I’m becoming a better person for it or at least I hope so,” he told reporters of the experience this season. “I feel like I’m battling and grinding and trying to do everything I can. As far as I know if you’re doing that then that’s all you can do.”