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23 Intently Staring Goalies

Toronto—Is Reimer the Real Deal?

We’ve headed to the portion of the preseason where the teams have sent down the kids to the OHL, and the "professional tryouts" are starting to look worried. Time to look in on some training camps and see how the goaltending situation is working out.

Let’s go to Toronto first. They’ve been having goatending issues since Felix Potvin didn’t turn out to the the second coming of Patrick Roy. They pick up Curtis Joseph, and he gets them into the playoffs for a few years. Then they figured they can do the same with Ed Belfour, and it doesn’t quite work out the same. Hmmmm…

Then the season to season thrash kicks in. Tellqvist, Raycroft, Toskala, and then a couple of seasons where everyone who can put on pads joins in. It’s not a happy time in Toronto. They even think they have the answer in Jonas Gustavsson, and he throws them a scare (shades of Tommy Soderstrom!). Thankfully for both the Leafs and Gustavsson, that’s been taken care of.

So, it looks like the Leafs may have finally hit upon a stable goaltending duo with James Reimer and Jonas Gustavsson. Having said that, I now expect one or both to get an unexplainable rash that keeps them from putting on their goaltending equipment for the next three months. Yes, it’s been that sort of decade. But let’s ignore subjective probability for the next few and slog onward.

What I like: Both goaltenders are young, they’re mobile, and they take up a lot of room. Seriously, if I have the choice of a 5 ft 8 goalie and a 6 ft2 goalie, all other things being equal, I’m going with the larger of the two. I know I’m going to get a couple of pucks stopped every game just because they can cut down the angle and get to the high shots more effectively than the smaller guy.

They both play butterfly, but their stylistic elements have enough difference that I could decide on who is going into goal that night based on what I’m expecting from the opposing team. That’s a nice problem to have. Gustavsson is tap-dancing across the crease (fast, fast feet), while Reimer is more of a set-up and react style of player. They’re both reading the play, but they have different, and effective styles of getting ready to stop the shots.

Gustavsson, even though he and Reimer are almost the same height, (6ft3 vs 6ft2) looks taller. That’s due to his body type-he’s lanky and slope-shouldered vs Reimer’s square build. Gustavsson’s packing a serious set of traps in next to those sloping shoulders, and that should help with catching the second shot if it goes high.

I’d like to see Gustavsson work on stickhandling a bit more. I still don’t trust the Toronto defense,and neither should he. Getting a lot of practice moving the puck out of the "magic trapezoid" and out to his forwards would much better break up opposing teams plays. It will also cut down on the "arrrrrgggghhhhhh!" moments when he either loses the puck entirely, or hands it back to the attacking team. It’s not pretty. It’s also where the happy feet and size helps him recover from the error.

I’d also like to see him keep his weight up. He’s running at a fairly low bodyfat percentage, and that may be normal for him, but if he falls below that, his energy levels and reaction time will suffer from it. Worse, the energy levels could cause him to get into a situation where he’s injured, and it will take him that much longer to get over the injury. So, next time you’re at Tim Horton’s get a nice maple bar to go with that coffee!

On to Reimer. The Leafs keep bringing him up when all their other goalies were hurt, and immediately sending him back on the cross-town bus when said goalies came off the IR. This was frustrating all-around, since the fans kept getting a taste of his goaltending, just to have to ripped out from under them. Now he’s with the big club for real, and there’s a lot of focus on whether he’s going to the answer to the question Toronto has been asking—can he lead the team to the playoffs and beyond?

Right now, you could find Reimer under stolid int he dictionary. His confidence has built up every time he’s played in the NHL, where he’s gone from the kid who hoped he could play at an NHL level to someone who could lead the Leafs. He’s young, but he has the type of personality that lends itself towards a mature look on the game earlier than one might think.

What was heartening about Reimer is that as the opposing teams gathered video on him, he didn’t hit the "now we know how to beat him" wall hit by so many players. This is the difference between a goaltender who makes it in the long term, and a goaltender who ends up as the answer to a trivia question.

Reimer is a "set up and block" style of a goaltender, so he’s going to be in control of the pace of the game. This style also tends to cut down on the number of rebounds, which, given how many 40+ shots on goal games the Leafs defense treated Reimer to in the past season (6 of 31 full game appearances), he’s going to need to control both the rebounds and overall game pace.

I’d like to see Reimer work on handling rebounds. He has problems with getting to the second shot, especially if he’s gone down in the full butterfly, which he does a lot. Reimer is going to have to either not drop as often as he does, or work on his mobility while he’s one his knees. Practicing the long-lost art of the poke save until he can consistently get the puck to the Leafs defense would make Reimer a killer goalie. That poke save will also work the blocker side, which is consistently a trouble spot for butterfly style goaltenders.

Overall, though, it looks promising for Toronto this season. With two young up-and-coming goalies, games are going to be a lot more fun to watch, and a move the Leafs to a much happier place in the standings.

Filed in: | 23 Intently Staring Goalies | Permalink
  Tags: goalies, goaltending, gustavsson, leafs, nhl, reimer, toronto+maple+leafs

Comments

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You’re pretty hard on Ed Belfour considering he got Toronto into the playoffs 2 of the 3 seasons he was there. His first two seasons were terrific (you seem to only be remembering the Belfour from the 3rd season - he was also 40 years old that year).

What makes the Toronto goaltending look so shaky is a) missing the playoffs multiple season and b) that the goaltending really was quite steady throughout the entire Potvin/Joseph/Belfour era. Under Pat Quinn particularly with Joseph and Belfour the goaltending was often sensational.  The woes in net really only started post-lockout.

Posted by Trevor on 09/29/11 at 06:14 PM ET

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That is the correct blog for anybody who wants to seek out out about this topic. You understand so much its almost hard to argue with you (not that I really would want…HaHa). You undoubtedly put a brand new spin on a topic thats been written about for years. Nice stuff, just nice!

Posted by best franchise from usa on 07/28/12 at 10:58 PM ET

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About 23 Intently Staring Goalies

23 Intently Staring Goalies comes from the 23 close-up photos of goalies that used to line the walls of my office.

On the good side, it kept down interruptions, but it also made sure I had to leave my trash outside my door if I wanted it picked up.

I've been watching and analyzing goaltenders for going on 40 years. Some of that was spent drawing goalies on my grade 8 math homework. Then it was taking my card decks and printouts to Indianapolis Racer games. Luckily, the Internet took off, and by 1991 I was half of the duo that would ultimately become the Plaidworks hockey mailing lists. I wrote "Handicapping the Goalies' for the San Jose Sharks mailing list, and took a lot of photos of goalies in action. I have around 5000 slides of mostly goaltenders in action from 1989 through 2001 from the WHL, IHL and NHL. Since I've gone digital, I've added about 10,000 more images to the library. During summers and when the league went dark, I was reading through multiple SF By area news papers, tracking ice hockey from the 1917 recreational leagues up through the California Seals.

We'll be talking about goalies and goaltending. We'll talk about whats going on now, who's in the system, and when the doldrums hit, I'll haul something out of the big bag of history, or something from the photo archives. We'll talk about who's hot and why, and who's not and what they can do to get back on track. We'll take a look at the trends in scouting goalies, and why a style may work for one team but not another. I'll battle with my dictation software to get it to understand Bryzgalov and Bobrovsky.

It should be interesting--hope you want to come along for the ride!