James Reimer came out of nowhere and lifted the city of Toronto off its collective feet a season ago. Now, the AHL call-up turned NHL starting goaltender will look to repeat last season’s success and build upon it, hoping to capture the Leafs’ first playoff berth in nearly seven years.
In his rookie campaign, Reimer went 20-10-5 with a goals against average of 2.60 and a save percentage of.921, which ranks as one the best seasons for a Leafs’ rookie goalie in team history.
With Reimer in net, the Leafs moved up seven spots in league standings, going from 27th to 20th. Their 10th place Eastern Conference finishing had them just nine points out of eighth seed, four points closer than they were before Reimer made his starting debut on January 1.
Reimer’s next test in his career will be a tough one. The 23-year-old will have to play consistent hockey throughout the entire year if the Leafs are to make the playoffs.
This is the test of a lifetime that any goalie yearns for. And at such a young age playing in the media-frenzied city of Toronto, it must be hard not to fall prey to the pressure.
But if anyone’s to pull it off, it’s Reimer. Nothing seemed to faze him last year, and his maturity should only grow from here on out. He plays with tremendous focus and attention to detail on the ice, and he’s a hardworking class act off it.
If nothing else, he has given hope to a city that hasn’t won Lord Stanley’s Cup in what will be 44 years. Outside of hockey, Toronto hasn’t had produced a winner since ’93 with the Blue Jays. And even since that year, Toronto has been starved of real contenders.
This time, however, the Leafs may have just found a franchise goalie who can lead them out of the darkness.