TORONTO – Randy Carlyle didn’t like what he saw from goaltender James Reimer, so the hook came as he was walking off the bench at the first intermission.
The Toronto Maple Leafs coach tapped Jonathan Bernier and said simply: “You’re going in.” Reimer had given up three goals on 12 shots to the Detroit Red Wings, partially the product of him but also his teammates making a handful of blunders.
Reimer wasn’t happy about being pulled. He would have liked to be able to play through.
“You want that chance to get in there and fight and battle for your teammates and try and get a win,” he said. “But obviously Randy had other thoughts, and he’s the coach and he’s the one who makes those decisions. I just try and stop pucks.”
In Carlyle’s estimation, Reimer did not do a good enough job of that, specifically on Joakim Andersson’s wrap-around goal that went in off his stick and then on Tomas Jurco’s that snuck in to make it 3-1 Detroit.
The concern for Carlyle began when the Red Wings’ first shot on Reimer got into and out of his glove.
“I thought the rebounds were bouncing away from him,” the Leafs’ coach said after the 5-4 shootout loss. “When a goaltender is in the zone, pucks usually don’t go through him, and their third goal went through him. …
“When you do that you do that not based upon not specifically the individual that’s getting pulled. You do it for your team that somehow you can get a spark for your team, and I thought Bernier came in and did that for us.”
Reimer didn’t get an explanation from Carlyle after being yanked for the fourth time this season, not counting Oct. 17 against Carolina when he left with an injury.
Bernier was coming back from a lower-body injury suffered Monday in a collision with Pittsburgh forward Jayson Megna that cost him a potential start Thursday against the Coyotes. He reported feeling OK physically in his first action since then.
“Obviously the shootout and going in the game (off the bench) like this is not the best for after an injury, but it was fine,” Bernier said.
Bernier stopped 25 of the 26 shots he faced in the second and third periods and then overtime. The only goal he gave up was to Tomas Tatar in the third period, but Bernier emphasized the positives of erasing a two-goal deficit.
“Coming back after (3-1), it’s pretty impressive,” he said. “I think it’s a big point for us. Obviously coming back against a good team like this, it should be a huge confidence (boost).”
It’s uncertain where Reimer’s confidence is after an up-and-down week. His followed up pointed comments after Tuesday’s loss to the Florida Panthers about his teammates’ lack of consistent effort with 34 saves in a victory over Phoenix on Thursday.
Then came Saturday night, when everything fell apart in a forgettable first period.
“Obviously I didn’t want to get pulled,” Reimer said. “It’s the last thing I wanted, I wanted to hang in there. But that’s Randy’s decision, and I respect what he decides. I may not like it, but that’s irrelevant. He’s the one who makes those decisions, and so, yeah, that’s really all I got.”