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Reimer and Phaneuf: Expectations and Exaltations

James Reimer and Dion Phaneuf have taken a beating in the press as the Leafs' have come close to elimination.

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They're not just the players we need, they're the players we're going to badmouth in the press.
They're not just the players we need, they're the players we're going to badmouth in the press.
Claus Andersen

After a notable pinch in game four, the hatchets came out for Dion Phaneuf - oh, no, I'm sorry: the hacks came out for Dion Phaneuf. Steve Simmons was concerned about Phaneuf's reputation - so concerned that he wrote a piece intended to besmirch Dion's reputation, and Shoalts even went so far as to suggest his "erratic" play should get him traded - as if top-competition, 30+ minute defensemen just came out of the damn woodowork, to be replaced at-will. Now, we know why they wrote these pieces: Dion took the blame for the play, gave some tasty soundbites, and Shoalts and Simmons mailed in a lazy piece by not really looking at culpability on the play.

Meanwhile, Justin Bourne writes a piece looking at the whole play, and Cam Charron writes a piece looking at Phaneuf's larger body of work, and the value he brings to the Leafs. The disparity in analysis borders on the hilarious - anyone inspired to renew their newspaper subscriptions to get more of the opening paragraph's drivel?

It's obvious that people would target the captain - twitter did, so maybe Shoalts and Simmons are just hopping on the bandwagon for a little hit-grubbing? - but more surprising, given the Leafs' dependence on goaltending, was that anyone would cast doubt on the Leafs' MVP, James Reimer. And yet Kevin McGran ran a piece saying that Carlyle had challenged Reimer to be better without actually finding a quote of Carlyle challenging Reimer to improve. Mirtle, who is will aware of the dangers in small sample sizes, even described Reimer as "Not great. Not even good. But not exactly terrible either." (Apparently John Shannon said Reimer "isn't as good as people give him credit for" because Reimer once got pulled or something - I don't listen to his podcast.)

But even before last night's 43 save game, his even strength save percentage on just a four game sample size was 914 - below regular season league average, but still better than names like Roberto Luongo, Marc-Andre Fleury, and Carey Price. After last night, Reimer has seen the most shots in the playoffs (159), and holds the ninth best even strength save percentage, less than one goal's difference behind King Henrik, Jonas Hiller, and everybody's favorite savior-to-be, Corey Schneider. He's stolen games, he's been victimized by some unfortunate bounces and some shoddy defensive play, and he hasn't been perfect, but he got the Leafs here and over the past few games, he's the reason the Leafs are still here. If the Leafs need Reimer to step his game up, there are other issues to address.

Some links:

Lokomotiv Yaroslavl training in .... Lancaster County? - Broad Street Hockey
Lokomotiv Yaroslavl, the KHL team wiped out by a plane crash a year and a half ago, continues to rebuild in ... of all places ... Manheim, Lancaster County.

Joe Sakic, Josh Kroenke take on bigger roles with the Avs - Mile High Hockey
Sherman keeps his title, probably just because the Avs won the lotto. I wouldn't expect him to stay around much longer than the Avs' first losing streak.

Eulogy: Remembering the 2012-13 Montreal Canadiens
Habs 2013 playoff wins: 1. Leafs 2013 playoff wins: 2.

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