Funny what a difference a week makes in Leafland.
Last week riding a four-game win streak with The Monster on a roll, the Maples were looking to make it five in a row going into what’s been a graveyard for them in Buffalo on Friday. They were hoping to do what hasn’t been done in ages: That is, win a home-at-home series with the Sabres in Buffalo’s barn. Following that, it was back down the QEW for a Saturday night tilt against the (I’ll still say it) surprising NY Rangers.
Well we all know what happened.
The Leafs once again stubbed their toes enroute to what would have been a spectacular week. They lost 3-2 to the Sabres Friday and were shoutout 3-0 by the Rangers bringing to an end Jonas Gustavsson’s brief stint at carrying the mantle of Number 1.
Cue James Reimer.
But Reimer didn’t stop the skid either now at 3 games, losing to the Sens 3-2 Tuesday night. Last week’s buoyant optimism has disappeared faster than an extra large with pepperoni and double cheese in front of the Ford brothers.
So what happened?
In the first two losses, Gusty was up to his old tricks by allowing at least one soft goal in each outing letting the air out of Leafs’ chances. During his four-game win streak Gusty somehow managed to avoid this aggravating little wrinkle in his game. In fact, there was reason to think he had eradicated it and had become a different goalie. A better one.
The usual pundits weighed in saying he was finally the goaltender Brian Burke hoped he was getting and well on his way to becoming a bonafide NHL starter. As the team behind Gusty piled up the wins, even the hard to impress coach W. took off the seatbelt and spoke not just of making the playoffs but securing a 3rd or 4th seed.
Hey, such musings seem entirely possible in the grip of optimism when you’re sitting in 6th, mere points behind the next team you’ll obviously leapfrog. Everything looks so brilliant when things are going well.
How it’s all changed so drastically in a week.
As of January 18, they find themselves again on the outside looking in, in 9th place with 49 points – a point behind the 8th place Capitals. But don’t look now. The feisty Winnipeg Jets are gaining fast — just two points behind Toronto after the loss to the Sens on Tuesday.
So switching puck-stoppers didn’t do the trick. James Reimer allowed 3 goals on just 21 shots. Didn’t help that Sens’ goalie Craig Anderson was red hot which is what you really need to mount a substantial run as have the Senators, 9 points up on the Leafs with 58. Hands up if you saw that coming. Yeah, me too.
Reimer, (remember when he was dubbed Optimus Reim as a rookie sensation?) is in some kind of sophomore jinx. He’s simply not the same prior to the Gionta hit that, let’s face it, resulted in some kind of concussion. The view from here is that he can’t be relied upon to carry the load and the Leafs will have to lean a bit more on Gusty to fill the net. Bit of a scary proposition if you want to get to the promised land — and the franchise desperately needs to as they near the 8th (yes it’s been that long) anniversary of the their last playoff appearance.
It’s platoon time the rest of the way I believe with The Monster getting the nod slightly more than Reimer.
Better get used to it.