If the Air Canada Centre was sound asleep for most of Monday night, it’s at least partly because the Maple Leafs, in the first 40 minutes of their game against the New Jersey Devils, managed to put five shots on goal.
Two periods, zero goals, next to zero drama — you could hear the collective griping in the expensive seats: And people say the Blue Jays are having a tough start.
But just when the NHL looked like the Nothing Happening League, James Reimer turned a non-event into a game to talk about. He also turned what should have been a lopsided loss into a 2-0 Leafs win.
Never mind that the Leafs were outshot 32-13. Never mind that, at one point in a third period in which the Devils pelted Reimer with 16 shots, New Jersey’s Patrik Elias was so convinced he’d finally breached the Leaf goal line that he raised his stick in triumph. But much to the delight of the ACC faithful, Reimer’s well-placed pads repelled all challengers to earn his ninth career shutout.
Toronto coach Randy Carlyle has said again and again this season: we don’t need our goaltenders to steal games; we merely need them to give us a chance to win them. But Reimer engineered an outright heist of Monday’s result. Raised a devout Mennonite in a tiny town in Manitoba, perhaps he’ll be forgiven from breaking this particular commandment. He was, after all, guilty only of stealing from the Devils. And perhaps it was fitting that Reimer’s godly devotion to keeping the puck on the right side of the goal line kept the greatest Devil of them all, Hall of Fame-bound goaltender Martin Brodeur, stuck at 666 career wins.
“I had my hands up,” Elias would say later, lamenting that near-goal. “Marty (Brodeur) said it’s a $50 fine for celebrating and not scoring.”