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article imageOp-Ed: Maple Leafs need James Reimer to get his game back now

By Marcus Hondro     Dec 30, 2011 in Sports
This was supposed to be the season of James Reimer, the year the young Toronto Maple Leaf goalie got his team over the hump after 7 straight springs without the Leafs taking part in the Stanley Cup playoffs.
It hasn't turned out that way, not yet....
Reimer has had some strong games since returning to the line-up in early December after his concussion but more often he's struggled and the team is losing their grasp on a playoff spot. His latest sub-par effort came in a 4-3 loss to the Carolina Hurricanes on Dec. 29th that saw him give up a 3-1 lead with 10 minutes to go and lose in overtime.
James Reimer: signed, sealed, now must deliver
As of this writing the Leafs sit in 8th after 37 games and teams continue closing in. When Reimer was signed to a lucrative three-year deal in the summer, the 23-year-old puckstopper was supposed to be one of the main guys that would ensure the customary strong Leaf start would not collapse. It's collapsing.
The Carolina game saw Reimer give up an overtime goal that coach Ron Wilson said was "a save you have to make" and the previous game, a 5-3 loss to the Florida Panthers, saw him yanked early in the second after giving up 3 goals on 8 shots. That to a injury-depleted Florida team that hadn't manged to score more than 3 goals in one game for 9 straight games.
Naturally had Brian Gionta not crashed his crease Oct. 22 James Reimer's game would be at a better place than it is now, but it happened and he hasn't the luxury of time to get things going. His team needs it now before the slide takes them out of contention. This is,after all, a team that hasn't seen playoff hockey since Ed Belfour was their goalie, with Brian Leetch, Ron Francis, Gary Roberts and Alexander Mogilny in front of him.
Numbers rising for Maple Leafs goalie
Before his injury Reimer was 4-0-1 this season and 24-10-6 overall since being called up last season, but since he's gone 3-3-3. His GAA and save percentage are rising and since his return he hasn't been consistently himself. There has to be a point at which a strong game from Jonas Gustavsson could see Reimer lose his job as the number one goalie.
But Wilson seems to be trying to help him get his game back by continuing to go to him and the strong outings that he has had - a 3-2 OT loss to L.A. on the 19th and a 3-2 over Buffalo 3 nights later - have shown the coach that the real James Reimer is there, somewhere, struggling to regain his form. Eighth place with teams closing? He needs to do it now.
This is, after all, supposed to be his season.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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