Phil Kessel and the rest of the Toronto Maple Leafs blew through Canada's capital last night, taking two points from last place and sometimes rival Ottawa Senators. Kessel potted his 30th goal of the season, making it three consecutive years he has reached that milestone. But in the end, it was the solid goaltending of James Reimer that propelled the Leafs to victory. The young Manitoban stopped 23 shots to earn his twentieth victory of the season. If Reimer were a Greek god, he'd be Atlas because all he does is carry this team and the hope of Leaf fans on his shoulders.
Reimer's stellar play has likely even secured an extension for head coach Ron Wilson. As Vintage Leaf Memories puts it:
Critics can rightly wonder if, under Wilson, we will ever get a power play or penalty-killing unit that consistently makes a positive difference, but that is obviously just one facet (albeit important) of assessing a coach. At the end of the day, here’s the truth, however. Whatever Wilson has done to tweak lines, motivate players, teach, cajole, bench guys on occasion, all that and more, there is one undeniable reality: If James Reimer doesn’t show up and play as he has, the Leafs aren’t even close to where they are now, and all this "hope for the future" and "things are different this time" talk would largely be whistling past the graveyard. Yes, there is much to laud about the improved play of this squad, the young defense, the grit of Boyce, Brent, etc. and timely goals from Grabbo and others, but bottom line, we know Reimer is the straw that has stirred this drink and given the team the confidence to surge ahead.
That’s the history of hockey—great goaltending makes for successful coaches.
More about Reimer and the Leafs win in Ottawa in our morning links...
Jonas Siegel has some quotes from the Leafs after their big road win
MLHS has your quick hits from last night
ESPN's Pierre LeBrun squashes Chemmy's hopes and dreams
Leafs HQ has a few post-game thoughts of their own