Leaf Nation heaved a sigh of relief as Ben Scrivens stood on his head in place of injured puck-stop James Reimer but the bloom soon fell off the rose and buds are free falling back to their usual place at the trough. Optimus-Reim remains the only Leaf goalie with a save percentage over .900 as the tanden of Scrivens and Jonas 'The Monster' Gustavsson haven't been able to carry the load.
Reimer has been out since mid October. Gustavsson may have let the nature of Reimer's injury slip by accident but Leafs GM Brian Burke quickly clarified that Reimer was being treated for "concussion-like symptoms" after what was innitially reported as whip-last following a collision with Canadiens' forward Bryan Gionta. No one outside of team staff really knows what's going on with Reimer.
Whatever the case an NHL team lost the key copponent to their success and have since plummeted in the standings. It doesn't matter if this happened to the centre of the hockey universe in Leaf Land or the stark interior of the St. Pete Times Forum, it's a big problem, one that is escalating quickly.
Since the Reimer hit there has been a rash of goalie contact, most recently in a heated game between division rivals Buffalo and Boston, when Bruin forward Milan Lucic drilled a wandering Ryan Miller, (If you haven't seen Miller's post game interview click the link http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FvE82q4yKEM and check out the hit: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t2AMdBpaA40), prompting Miller to address the issue of contact with the goalie following the game.
If Miller had been seriously injured on the play the Sabres wouldn't be as hard off as the Leafs were for losing their number one goalie as Sabre back-up Jonas Enroth acutally has better numbers than Miller this season, but the point is not how an NHL team can expect to cope with the loss of their number one netminder, but why they should have to.
The debate has long raged that a goalie out of the crease should be fair game. The issue of contact with the goaltender has been limited since the implimentation of the trapezoid, and we aren't seeing goalies exploit their cloak of invincibility as much as we did pre-lockout, but one would have to reason that this type of flagrant goaltender contact would not exist if the game were still policed by the players. The way NHL referees mete out penalties in todays game the risk of taking any unnecessary fouls is too high, so teams are forced to watch as their goalies are compromised time and again.
Let's consult the NHL rule book:
Rule 69 - Interference on the Goaltender: "Intentional or deliberate contact with a goalkeeper, inside or outside of his goal crease. Incidental contact with a goalkeeper will be permitted."
Amazingly an NHL rule sounds pretty cut and dry to me. Clearly contacting the goaltender on purpose is not allowable in the NHL, so, why are so many tendies getting tenderized?
Could it be that Bruin's Vezina winner Tim Thomas threw down the gauntlet in game three of the Stanley Cup Finals this past June when he body checked a rightfully unsuspecting Sedin in his own crease? Has goalie contact become a two way street? I'm sure nobody wants to see that, least of all the goalies, so what's the answer?
I personally would like to see the rule inforced as it reads, that intentional goalie contact, like Lucic's very purposeful steamrolling of wee Ryan Miller, be penalized. Everyone knows the insitgator rule has got to go, so to balance it out that power grubbing law should be done away with so that if a forward bumps your goalie he can expect both a penalty and a pummeling as well as a resulting power play for the team defending their crease.
Wake up NHL. The NFL has gone to drastic measures to protect their most pivotal player, the quarterback, while the NHL has unleased the dogs of war on its most defenseless.