Goalie competitions always seem worthy of grabbing headlines. When one happens in arguably the most rabid hockey market in the NHL, it becomes something more than that.
Such is the case with the Toronto Maple Leafs with incumbent No. 1 James Reimer and newly arrived Jonathan Bernier.
Last season, Reimer led the Maple Leafs to the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time since 2004, but this offseason Toronto acquired Bernier from the Los Angeles Kings in exchange for forward Matt Frattin and goalie Ben Scrivens.
Now with Reimer and Bernier each off to a good start, the questions about who will be No. 1 won't go away. Reimer will start when Toronto plays its home opener Saturday against the Ottawa Senators (7 p.m. ET, CBC).
Goalie - TOR
GAA: 3.00 | SVP: 0.919
"We both just want to go out there and play the best we can play and not really worry about the rest of the stuff," Reimer said with a laugh. "That's up to you guys to worry about and write stories about."
For Bernier, competing for time and being under the crush of attention isn't new.
"I think I'm used to it in a way with Jonathan [Quick] my first couple years (with the Kings). Media were all over us for who was going to start every night," Bernier said. "That was a good experience I gained in L.A. I just try to really focus on my game and not what [Reimer] is going to do. Hopefully we do well. That's the purpose of having two good goaltenders. I think you're just trying to win as many games as possible, even on a back-to-back."
So what's a backup, or a co-starter, to do?
"My main focus is just to focus on myself, my game, and every time I get the chance to play that's when I need to step up," Bernier said.
Though the Maple Leafs' fellow Atlantic Division playoff teams all have clear No. 1 goalies (Tuukka Rask, Jimmy Howard, Carey Price, Craig Anderson), Toronto won't have to worry about possibly exhausting either Bernier or Reimer.
Being able to split time as much as they can is something the Maple Leafs can use to their advantage. Ideally, it should push each goalie to play at the top of his game.
"Even if you think you're No. 1 one day there's always someone who's going to push you," Bernier said. "You always go to battle for your job. To stay in the NHL, it's such a hard League. There's always good kids coming up and you have to make sure every summer you train hard and push yourself the full season."
This summer, Bernier, 25, was playing the role of "the kid" pushing "the veteran" (Reimer, 25) after arriving in Toronto. As for the Maple Leafs' plan going forward this season, the message seems to be to play hard.
"If you told me I was going to play 41 and he was going to play 41 it's still not a bad scenario," Bernier said. "It's close to being No. 1. A No. 1 plays what, maybe 55 or 60 so... It's a long season; you don't know what's going to happen."
Reimer said having each other's back is important.
"We just support each other and when we're in there we're trying to do the best for our teammates," he said.
The Maple Leafs have a luxury with two goalies capable of shouldering the load. Bernier, however, knows who ultimately holds the cards.
"That's up to the coaching staff to decide who's going to play and I'm sure by the end [coach Randy Carlyle is] going to go with his gut feeling and that's hockey," he said. "It's not who starts the season, it's who finishes."