All About Gaining Confidence
Friday, 02.4.2011 / 12:26 PM ET / Mike Ulmer's Blog
By Mike Ulmer - Mapleleafs.com commentator
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Goalie Jonas Gustavsson is headed to the Marlies which is good news for him and not such good news for poor Ben Scrivens.
All Scrivens did was post a 2.25 goals against average and a .927 save percentage with the Marlies. Hate to see what would have happened to the kid had he been better. As it is he is being sent to Reading.
Blame all this on the most unlikely source, sweet-natured James Reimer, son of a Manitoba house mover whose spectacular play has prompted two changes of address in one morning. Reimer had his best game yet, Thursday, stoning the Carolina Hurricanes 3-0.
“(Reimer) will be playing Saturday in Buffalo,” said Maple Leafs coach Ron Wilson. “He got the shutout. He’s playing well.”
In nine games, Reimer has gone 5-3. Thursday’s whitewashing of Carolina dropped his Goals Against Average to 1.96. His save percentage is .940. That’s just ridiculous.
The demotion, dubbed a conditioning assignment to prevent any waiver claim, solves a couple of obvious problems.
First, three guys doesn’t work in anything resembling a couple. Reimer and J.S. Giguere will now garner the proper amount of work in practice and in games.
Second, there is now some air for Giguere who likely will not be back next season. Several good performances could heighten the argument for a trade.
Third, Gustavsson needs the work. He hasn’t played since Jan. 11 when he was lit up by the New York Rangers for six goals. His .890 save percentage and .3.29 goals against are profoundly disappointing after what was, in balance, a promising rookie year.
At 26, Gustavsson is far from washed up but denied a chance to make the NHL based on his North American body of work, he has two weeks on the farm to regain his game and his confidence.
“We wanted to get him playing some games,” said Wilson. “They play eight games in the next 14 nights and he should play at least have of them. He’s got two guys playing better in front of him. The easiest thing for him is to play and get his confidence.”
Veteran Jean-Sebastien Giguere says Gustavsson’s issue is one all goalies grapple with: a lack of confidence that snowballs into poor results and even less confidence.
“It can happen to the best players in the world. Look at (New Jersey Devils star) Martin Brodeur. With all the winning he has done, he can still struggle and he did earlier this season. I know Jonas will be a lot better when he gets back here.”
For now, the gridlock has been eased at the Leafs crease, but in two weeks they will be obliged to bring Gustavsson back. If Reimer continues to shine and Giguere, a terrific veteran guy, have to take a back seat, nobody will much mind. It would mean the Leafs are winning and the playoffs are still, in theory at least, a possibility.