TORONTO - James Reimer took his frustration public when the Toronto Maple Leafs' losing streak reached 11 games. The goaltender said he and his teammates needed to "smarten up and really play the way we can and with passion and like men."
The next night the Leafs won for the first time in almost a month. Fittingly, Reimer was between the pipes and will be again Tuesday night when the New York Rangers come to town.
Reimer earned a third straight start with his play against the Edmonton Oilers and also plenty of respect from his coach for speaking his mind beyond the confines of an internal meeting.
"That's a great leadership situation on his part," interim coach Peter Horachek said Monday. "He stepped up, he's not happy, he was angry and he showed passion. He almost demanded passion from the rest of his teammates. And I didn't think we were very strong in New Jersey, I thought we were soft. I think everyone responded."
Horachek pointed out that Reimer isn't an outspoken player and that his comments meant more because of who they came from. The usually reserved 26-year-old didn't make as much of his own remarks.
"What I said everyone was thinking," Reimer said. "It was nothing crazy. We all know we needed to play better."
The Leafs did play better against the Oilers than they had Friday night in a 4-1 loss at the New Jersey Devils. Part of that was Reimer, who stopped the first 31 shots he faced and came 2.3 seconds away from his first shutout of the season.
"I actually shut the TV off and I looked the next day and it was 5-1," said fellow goaltender Jonathan Bernier, who was home with a virus. "It was probably 10 seconds left and I just shut it off, so I didn't actually know he got scored on."
Reimer wasn't supposed to start Saturday night but got the call because Bernier was sick. Bernier's healthy now and practised Monday, but Horachek went back to Reimer saying he deserves the chance to play again.
Like his predecessor, Randy Carlyle, Horachek wanted to snuff out talk about a goalie controversy.
"It's not a competition, we'll just play it day-by-day," Horachek said. "They're part of this team, they're both guys who are valuable leaders on this team. It's not about one guy or the other, it's about this team winning games and that's the way I have to keep it."
For their part, Reimer and Bernier downplay the competition, too. Bernier wants to get back into a rhythm after a rough week, and Reimer wants to get on a roll for the first time all year.
That's enough to worry about without focusing on each other.
"Coaches and management, they're going to make their decisions and they're going to evaluate how everyone plays and especially goaltenders," Reimer said. "I've always been here and I've always been working my hardest and doing my best for the team. I'm going to continue to do that and we'll see where the chips fall."
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