TORONTO – A phone call was out of the question, text message probably ill-advised. Knowing Flames head coach Brent Sutter as James Reimer does, neither would sit particularly well.
“He's a pretty intense guy,” said Reimer. “I doubt he would've wanted to talk to me beforehand and now that we beat him I doubt that he'll ever want to talk to me.”
Reimer stopped the final 25 shots he faced at the Air Canada Centre on Saturday night, steering the Leafs toward their third victory in three games, a 3-2 defeat of Sutter's Calgary Flames.
An early 2-0 hole did nothing to dampen the spirits of the 23-year-old. In fact, it was his heroics in the second period that rallied the Leafs to a win.
Moments before Joffrey Lupul cut the deficit in half with the Leafs first goal of the game, Reimer stonewalled Flames captain Jarome Iginla with a sensational left pad save. Phil Kessel evened the score shortly thereafter (with the first of his two goals), but not before Reimer turned aside a hard-rushing Olli Jokinen with another sturdy left pad stop.
“Those are the saves that stick out the most for me,” said Ron Wilson, following the game.
Resiliency was a big component in Reimer's success as a rookie last season. Be it a bad goal, bad period or all-out bad night, the Manitoba native showed a knack for handling adversity.
It's a strength he attributes to a former head coach in junior.
“Being mentally tough is a huge part of being a goaltender,” said Reimer. “The mental side is probably 110% of goaltending…It's your ability to let go of things, to read plays, or just to shut out the crowd, shut out what other people are saying or what coaches might be saying and just focusing on your game.
“And to tell you the truth, the man behind the bench on the other team – he taught me a lot about that in Red Deer.”
Now a third-year head coach with the Flames after a two-year stop with the Devils, Brent Sutter was the man responsible for guiding two of Reimer's three seasons with the Red Deer Rebels. A stern manager, Sutter demanded brute mental strength from his young goaltender.
“He was a tough coach that expected a lot out of you no matter what the situation,” explained Reimer. “He kept a really tight leash on it per se and so you knew you had to be strong in there all the time.
“If you could pass that test, you were well on your way to being mentally tough.”
Reimer is also quick to credit Andy Nowicki, his goaltending coach with the Rebels for nurturing the mental side of the game, an unheralded benefit for any goaltender in Toronto. Being in the pressure-cooker with heavy expectations as a sophomore this season, Reimer has cooled any early question marks with his play so far. With a perfect 3-0-0 record, 2.34 goals against average and .927 save percentage, he's picked up right where he left off last season.
Seemingly not fazed by the blinding spotlight of a hockey hotbed, Reimer is hanging tough – mentally tough, that is.
“It is a big part of goaltending,” he concluded, “and I'm trying to make it my strength.”