By Mark McKelvie
They say you have to be a little crazy to be a goaltender, but it might just be that being a goaltender that makes you crazy.
James Reimer finally won the starting goaltending job for the Toronto Maple Leafs last season, and after a fantastic year he has been rewarded by the Leafs bringing in Jonathan Bernier to challenge and potentially steal the number one spot.
Through the first two games of the season, the picture isn’t any clearer on who will be the number guy going forward. In two games this season, both Reimer and Bernier turned in stellar performances in following one after the other in back-to-back victories.
For now it is likely head coach Randy Carlyle will just rotate the two goaltenders until one proves better than the other, but who will be that one to step out and run away with the job?
“It may not be the best thing for the two of them [rotating in goal] but will give them an equal chance to prove they can be the number one goaltender the Leafs have been looking for,” said Lamontage. “I think Reimer will be the number one, but Bernier will have his chance.”
But what, if anything, makes Reimer the choice for the number one spot?
“He led the Leafs to the playoffs and was the team’s MVP last season, and when the pre-season came around Reimer was the better goalie, hence why he was the starter on opening night,” Lamontagne said.
“He also has more games played, more wins and a better save percentage then Bernier who isn’t as experienced.”
“My money is on Bernier”
Kevin Thacker, a scout for HockeyProspect.com run by First Round Scouting Inc., says Bernier will be the number one based on his overall abilities in the crease.
“It’s early, obviously, but my money is on Bernier,” said Thacker. “He appears to be much more composed in the net, controls rebounds better, stands tall to the shooter as opposed to going down early and he has a better glove hand than Reimer.”
Previous Stanley Cup winners — Chicago, Boston, Los Angeles — haven’t used a 1, 1A goaltending tandem but rather a go to guy to backstop them to the Cup.
The Leafs are always looking for a number one goalie and by trading to bring in Bernier in the off-season, signs point towards the Leafs putting that faith in the newest Leaf.
At the same time, Reimer is a free agent at this year’s end, so do the Leafs look to trade him during the season?
“Not this season. He is a still a safety card to keep in your pocket,” said Thacker. ”If Bernier does flourish however an off season move would be likely.”
Lamontagne on the other hand said he doesn’t think the Leafs will be moving either goalie, and said Reimer will prove himself as a top goaltender. Not only that, Reimer will be in line for a nice, new contract.
“If he has another solid year, he’ll be in for a hefty raise.”
Ultimately, the Leafs have a good problem — one most teams would love to have.
This battle likely won’t end anytime soon, and Lamontagne said Leafs fans shouldn’t lament their home team’s good fortunes.
“Leafs fans should be happy they have a strong healthy goaltending duo that’s capable of winning games.”