TAMPA – Sitting deep in the shade of his stall at the Tampa Times Forum that morning was an article from the sports section of Wednesday's USA Today. Left there by goalie coach Francois Allaire, the story focused on the once-beleaguered but now unbeatable goaltender of the Philadelphia Flyers.
You could say that James Reimer is stealing a page from Ilya Bryzgalov and going quiet – well sort of.
“I don't know really want to talk too much about me or my game per se; it's been broken down enough and talked about,” Reimer said Thursday morning, hours before a 34-save performance and 3-1 win against the Lightning.
Maybe the most quirky personality in the league, Bryzgalov has recently turned quiet in his dealings with the media – he will not answer questions about himself – opting instead to focus on what takes place in the Philadelphia crease. The shift in concentration has worked wonders; Bryzgalov has reeled off seven consecutive wins, including four shutouts. Reimer is bidding for a similar reversal in fortune.
Clipping the piece for his goaltender to peruse, Allaire had a motivation in mind.
“Just do what he knows to do,” Allaire explained to TSN.ca prior to the game against Tampa. “He is in the NHL for one reason because he's got the skill. You don't win the lottery and be in the NHL. You earn your spot in the NHL. So he earned it. He knows what to do. He knows what's going on. He stopped million, million, million of pucks since he's a young kid so he has just to relax and let his body go and not over-analyze because sometimes you can be paralyzed by over-[analyzing].”
Reimer began what amounts to his rookie season – he played 37 games last year – in fine form; he won four of his first five starts before concussion-like symptoms sidelined him for the next six weeks. He'd not been the same since, winning just seven times over his next 23 starts.
Sensing the growing mental burden of his young goaltender's struggles, Allaire has set his sights on re-instilling “fun” back into Reimer's outlook while also hoping to ease the pressure.
“You have to be relaxed when you go in the game,” Allaire said. “Sometimes it's tough to make young kids understand that because you have to have a little bit of experience to do that and really think about and say ‘This is the way! I've done that before. I know what works'. It's a brand new experience for him.”
While recently re-uniting with Randy Carlyle – the two worked together for years and won a Stanley Cup in Anaheim – Allaire has been remained patient amid a string of criticism towards both himself and the two goaltenders – Jonas Gustavsson being the other. He's hopeful that with some tweaks across the board defensively, the Leafs will limit the amount of high-quality opportunities his goaltenders see on a night to night basis.
“The goalie[s] have been pointed out,” Allaire noted, “but there is a lot of different departments that have to be improved on this team…It's like a domino effect. The last domino fall down, that's the goalie. But before that there is two or four or five domino who fall down, but at the end of the day they look at the last one.” Reimer was the final domino in Tampa, his shutout bid ending with just 26 seconds left in regulation, the win more than sufficing on his 24th birthday. Highlighted in yellow was one particular passage from the piece on Bryzgalov, a quote from Flyers defenceman Kimmo Timonen, citing his advice to the Russian goaltender. “…'Stop worrying about things, stop worrying about you.' That's the main thing. Go out there and do your stuff and good things will happen and everybody's gonna love you. And he's been doing that.'"
Reimer will look to do the same.