Game 37: Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and Mr. Reimer
About an hour before a game starts, I now perform a superstitious ritual.
First, I pour vodka into a Leafs shot glass. Then with the glass in my right hand, I drop to one knee and repeat these words aloud: Please let the Good Leafs show up tonight. Please let the Good Leafs show up tonight.
Last night, it finally worked. The Good Leafs destroyed a comatose Ottawa squad that, truth be told, kind of resembled the Bad Leafs.
Super-sized rebounds, hot turnovers, sweet odd-man rushes, gelatinous free ice around the net – for a nice change, the Leafs were takers and not givers of this fare. For a nice change, I didn't need to perform another superstitious ritual, one that happens during the second intermission with the same shot glass but with words I can't repeat in a family newspaper.
You know? We are cheering for a wildly unpredictable bunch. This is our fate. This is the overriding lesson of a Jekyll and Hyde season.
Some nights, like last night, the Good Leafs will show up and do everything right.
Clarke MacArthur slaps home a rebound to start the assault less than two minutes into the game. Tyler Bozak scores two goals – Tyler Bozak! – in less than three minutes, both of which result from gorgeous, tic-tac-toe passing plays with Phil Kessel and Joey Crabb.
If Crabb can continue to turn Bozak into a sniper and Kessel into a playmaker, he deserves the Nobel Prize in Chemistry.
Toronto didn't kill Ottawa so much as embalm them with theatrical aplomb.
Ottawa was dead before the puck dropped.
But with your indulgence, let's talk about goaltending on this fine Sunday morning.
James Reimer is a great kid. Before the season started, I recall chatting with a member of Brian Burke's management team. He said something like, "Reimer could be the best goalie we have."
"Really?" I asked.
"Oh, yeah," was the reply.
J.S. Giguere, the team's official No. 1 goaltender, is about a week away from returning after aggravating his wonky groin. Jonas Gustavsson, meanwhile, has struggled as the official No. 2.
I feel sorry for both of these guys, I really do. They care. They desperately want to win. They want to help their team. But this season, for whatever reason, they have done very little that would qualify as extraordinary.
Now to be fair, they have backstopped the Bad Leafs on most nights. Neither one has benefited regularly from the kind of offensive output the Good Leafs showed last night.
But here's the thing: Neither Goose nor Jiggy has stolen a game for the Leafs.
It's true. Reimer has only played 1 game and 14 minutes in the NHL. That's a speck of sand at the beach. So I won't be ridiculous and make too much out of his spectacular .081 GAA or .973 save percentage, even though both are now tops in the league.
What I will say is this: If I had to place bets on which Leaf goalie could steal a game or three down the stretch if given a chance to play, my money would be on James Reimer.
Beyond his focus and technically-sound style, he also has a winning attitude. He never stops smiling. He's basically a human emoticon. And with a young, fragile team, you need someone in net who is not on tenterhooks. You need someone who is relaxed and upbeat and not churning on the inside, hoping for the best while expecting the worst.
No offense to Goose, honestly, but smashing your stick over the crossbar every time the other side scores is the absolute worst thing you can do for team morale. It also sends a message of despair to the opposition and to your fans.
So here is today's question: What should Ron Wilson do with his goaltending situation?