There are the odd Saturday night’s where I find myself forced to listen to the outdated and xenophobic ramblings of Don Cherry. For the most part I completely ignore what the 7th Greatest Canadian has to say as I haven’t (willfully) watched an instalment of Coach’s Corner in years. Since I don’t live under a rock though, I usually hear the insane things Cherry has yelled at his audience at some point in the week. Cherry does not hide the fact that he is a Leafs fan and due to that he normally has quite a bit to say about the blue and white.
This week (from what I’ve heard) Cherry made a point to say that the Leafs were sheltering goaltender Jonathan Bernier and handing James Reimer the tough assignments. According to Cherry (if I am mistaken about what Cherry apparently did say please feel free to clarify in the comment section below) Bernier is the goalie that Leaf management believes in and traded for therefore they are giving him the easy games and placing Reimer in no-win situations. To illustrate his point Cherry pointed to the fact that Bernier started Friday night at home against the New Jersey Devils while Reimer was fed to the wolves that are the Boston Bruins the following night.
Dressing Bernier against one of the NHL’s worst offenses at home then putting in Reimer the following night on the road against Bruins with a tired team in front of him would seem to prove Cherry’s point. This is what Cherry does though, he’ll take one example, remove all other data, and then stand on his soapbox and declare himself right. Well, let’s take a closer look at the issue he brings up.
Bernier so far has started 9 games for the Leafs, 4 at home (Colorado, Edmonton, Anaheim and New Jersey) and 5 on the road (Philadelphia, Nashville, Chicago, Columbus and Calgary). The combined record for those teams (prior to Tuesday night’s action) is 75-63-17 which would give the teams that Bernier has started against a .488 winning percentage this season. Bernier has started the second half of a back to back situation twice and faced two teams that qualified for the post season last year (including the defending Stanley Cup champions in their own building). Interestingly enough, so far Bernier has started in net against the three best teams in the NHL this season.
Reimer on the other hand has started 8 games for the Leafs, 4 at home (Ottawa, Minnesota, Carolina and Pittsburgh) and 4 on the road (Montreal, Edmonton, Vancouver and Boston). The combined record for those teams (once again, prior to Tuesday night’s action) is 68-56-18 which would give the teams that Reimer has started against a .478 winning percentage. Reimer has also started the second half of a back to back situation twice and has been given the nod to start against six teams that qualified for the playoffs last season.
Upon closer inspection it appears as if neither goalie is actually being sheltered by the Leafs. Both goalies have been placed in almost identical situations and have faced off against some difficult opponents. As for last weekend, Reimer deserved the start in Boston due to his excellent play this year and his history with the Bruins. Despite the ridiculous ramblings of a 79 year old man who bizarrely has such a revered opinion about hockey, the Leafs have properly given both goalies equal and fair opportunities this season. I’ll be completely honest, I thought heading into this season that the Leafs would do what Cherry is accusing them of doing with Bernier and Reimer. Looking at the whole picture though, that just isn’t the case.
The Leafs face off against Minnesota tonight and it will be interesting which goalie Carlyle goes with. Bernier won his last start while Reimer is coming off a loss to the Bruins which would lead one to naturally assume Bernier will be the starter. However, Reimer defeated the Wild earlier this season with a strong 36 save performance. In the end it doesn’t really matter because I’m sure Cherry will find fault with whatever decision is made. After all, he is a Leafs fan.