TORONTO– James Reimer spent the last two weeks practicing the role of back-up goalie but it wasn’t until this past Saturday when the New York Rangers came to town that he realized what it will take to regain the number one spot.
“One of the biggest things I learned was the other day watching Henrik Lundqvist practice,” said Reimer. “I took the time to sit and watch him practice and see what he did to be so successful.”
Lundqvist, who has a career best 1.95 GAA and .937 SV% this season, is about as important as any goalie can be to their team and could teach Reimer a lot about consistency and success.
The 29-year-old Swede has played in a minimum of 68 games every year for the past five seasons and has won at least 30 games every season he’s been in the NHL; all numbers that differentiate the average from the elite.
“He practices with such intensity and he’d do anything to keep the puck out of the net even in practice,” said Reimer about Lundqvist. “He’s making seven million dollars and has all the fame in the world and he’s still out there with probably the hardest work ethic on the team. It’s good to see that and re-visit that. It allowed me to put some more intensity in my game.”
Reimer will have a chance to show what King Henrik taught him when he suits up this Tuesday against the Ottawa Senators, his first start since a 3-2 loss to the Winnipeg Jets on New Year’s Eve.
” It’s exciting,” said Reimer about the opportunity to start for the first time in seven games. “There is always a good part to being out, in the sense you can learn and watch the game, but obviously I love to play so I’m excited to play.”
As Jonas Gustavsson‘s recent success earned him more starts, Reimer admitted that the flaws in his own game as of late were starting to take a toll on him as he became the Leafs temporary number-two.
“It was tough because it hasn’t happened at such a high level before,” said Reimer. “But you stay positive and work hard. There’s no magical thing you can do. I used this time to rest my body and become a better player for when the team needed me.”
Although he is winless in his last three starts, Reimer is 3-0-1 versus Ottawa and a solid start against them will give him a chance to shake off some rust between the pipes.
With a combination of Lundqvist’s leadership and solid rest, the Morweena, Manitoba native is ready to have his name titled starter once again.
“My head feels good, my body feels great, it’s just time to play and stop that little puck.”