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What's Eating James Reimer?

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The biggest surprise of 2011 wasn't Phil Kessel's unbelievable start to the 2011-12 season, it was the emergence of James Reimer in January. The Leafs, propelled by having an actual NHL goaltender, went on an enormous run and since last January are playing 95pt pace hockey over about a full season's worth of games.

Reimer started out red hot last year before settling to a well above average .921 save percentage. This year he sits at .901. What changed? Was it the concussion? Was it the inevitability of being a Leafs fan, that everything we hope for turns to shit?

I noticed this a few days ago, and expanded on it on Twitter for a while yesterday.

2010-11 37 .933 10th .855 67th .921 12th
2011-12 15 .937 9th .768 72nd .901 53rd

PK SV% is very volatile from year to year; at this point in the season James Reimer has seen 82 shots on the PK and let in 19 of them. First and foremost we have a small sample size issue: 82 shots against could be two or three bad games for any goalie.

What's killing Reimer is that he's ahead of only Rick DiPietro (an actually bad goalie) in PK SV% and well below the pack. As you can see the Leafs horrific penalty kill is reflected in Reimer's 2010-11 stats where he's pretty far down the list, but this season he's almost a full .100 below that mark.

What happens if we correct Reimer's stats to see what he'd look like if we gave him an .855 SV% on the PK? His original stat line looks like this:

EV 20 316 .937
PK 19 82 .768
PP 2 15 .867
Tot 41 413 .901

So if we work backwards and set his PK SV% to .855 it would look like this:

EV 20 316 .937
PK 12 82 .855
PP 2 15 .867
Tot 34 413 .918

With a "well below league average" SV% on the penalty kill Reimer jumps up to a .918 SV% and I doubt anyone's complaining about his play. He admittedly looked horrible against Florida but even good goalies have bad games. Roberto Luongo and pre Stanley Cup Tim Thomas will tell you all about that.

Am I worried about the Leafs? Absolutely. Their PK is starting to border on being a snuff film and I wonder what happens if Phil Kessel and Joffrey Lupul hit the skids for five or six games (six losses, likely). Am I worried about James Reimer, whose excellent even strength SV% (the best indicator of goaltender talent) is the same as last year? Nope.