With Jonathan Bernier hurting and James Reimer struggling, the conditions are perfect for the Leafs to give third-string goalie Drew MacIntyre a start.
A friend once told me the ultimate dream job is backup NFL quarterback.
“It’s perfect,” he said. “You get paid a ton, get the glamor of being in the NFL, get a great vantage point for every game and, when you are called in to play, there’s no pressure. Everyone expects you to fail, so anything you accomplish is a bonus.”
Which brings us to Drew MacIntyre, who holds the title of Toronto Maple Leafs backup goaltender as long as Jonathan Bernier remains day to day and James Reimer is the “starter.”
MacIntyre entered Sunday night’s 3-2 defeat to the New Jersey Devils after a seemingly disinterested Reimer stopped seven of 10 shots. MacIntyre looked a bit jittery but was mostly impressive, blocking all 14 shots directed his way.
I do feel for Reimer, who I predicted would be far better in relief of Bernier over the last two weeks, but I think it’s time to give MacIntyre his first NHL start. Yes, against the powerhouse St. Louis Blues. Here’s why:
1. It’s a game no one expects the Leafs to win, so there’s little pressure. Toronto has lost a season-worst five straight games and six of seven. The remedy is hosting the team we think will win the Stanley Cup this year? Woof. So what’s the worst that can happen? MacIntyre struggles and the Leafs get shelled by a team that shelled them once already this year?
2. Reimer needs a break. Not physically, but mentally. His confidence was weakened the day Toronto traded for Bernier and it’s all but gone at this point. Toss in the ugly twitter attacks against his wife and a break from the spotlight may be just what Reimer needs.
3. At this exact moment, MacIntyre is the better goalie. Reimer is a shell of himself and MacIntyre is a hungry, longtime minor-leaguer with strong American League numbers in recent seasons. He’s perfectly capable of surprising the Blues on any given night, just as Reimer came out of nowhere to help the ailing Leafs in 2010-11. I’m not condemning Reimer, as I have faith he’ll bounce back, but I do believe MacIntyre gives Toronto a better chance to win Tuesday.
4. Save Bernier for Friday and Saturday’s must-win games.
Bernier was on the ice taking shots in practice today, so he’s obviously close to returning. But instead of throwing him to the wolves, why not rest him until the weekend, when Toronto plays crucial conference games against Philadelphia and Detroit?
The standings tell us the Leafs remain a wildcard playoff team, but the recent results tell a different story. This broken team has nothing to lose, considering how poorly it and Reimer have played of late, so why not do something radical to alter its fate? Start MacIntyre against St. Louis.
Matt Larkin is an associate editor at The Hockey News and a regular contributor to the thn.com Post-To-Post blog. For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, subscribe to The Hockey News magazine. Follow Matt Larkin on Twitter at @THNMattLarkin