The Leafs goaltending issues at the NHL level have opened the door for some of their young goaltending prospects to strut their stuff and show everyone what they can do.
With Toskala resting a “sore groin” (that’s probably code for .881 save percentage) and Joseph looking like he should have retired, we saw the much talked about Justin Pogge get his first NHL win on Monday night against Atlanta.
That callup cleared the way for the relatively unknown goaltender James Reimer to get a short stint with the Marlies. Well tonight he backstopped the Marlies to an impressive 3-2 shootout win over the Manitoba Moose, thus earning his first career AHL win. He stopped 25 of 27 shots, and 4 of 5 shootout attempts to earn the “W” along with the game’s 1st star honours. Nice way to make a quick impression on the Leafs brass.
The story of James Reimer’s hockey career thus far is an interesting one. For the most part, he’s been the bright spot on terrible teams year after year. Despite save percentages of .910, .912 and then .916 through 3 years in junior, Reimer only managed to post one winning season. Compare that to Pogge’s .900, .891 and .917 numbers and you’ll realize that James belongs in that upper echelon of elite junior goaltenders. In his last year, he posted an 8-15-4 record, despite a respectable 2.73 GAA and solid .916 SV%. To show you just how bad that team was, and how good Reimer had to be, the goaltender he split duties with posted a 3.70 GAA and .884 SV%. In fact, one poll done for WHL executives and coaches showed them picking Reimer as the top goalie in the WHL Eastern Conference.
Even upon signing a professional contract, Reimer was once again dealt a tough hand. He found himself bumped out of a spot on the Marlies and onto the Reading Royals of the ECHL. The Royals are by far the worst team in the entire league, posting a 9-21-0-2 record, .312 winning percentage, and boast the league’s worst defense and second most powerplays given up. Ouch. Not the ideal environment for a young goalie. Despite all of this, Reimer has still managed to scrape together a .905 SV% while his goaltending tandem partner (who by the way is getting 2/3 of the games) sports a swiss cheese-like .882 SV%.
Now after finally getting a shot to play behind a half decent team, Reimer is starting to show what he can do. While his resume is not quite as sexy as Pogge’s, he’s definitely a sleeper to keep an eye out for, especially if he gets an extended look at the AHL level this season should Pogge take over the NHL job. The talent is certainly there.
Always a pleasure,