Leafs Turning Back the Clock

By HOWARD BERGER

EDMONTON (Oct. 30) – By any reasonable measure, it is a tad early to start invoking the names of Johnny Bower and Terry Sawchuk. But, riddle me this: When was the last time Toronto Maple Leafs appeared to have as spectacular a one-two goaltending punch as Jonathan Bernier and James Reimer?

Given the sporadic pockets of success Leafs have enjoyed since Bower and Sawchuk combined to win the 1967 Stanley Cup, the answer shouldn’t be difficult. Jacques Plante and Bernie Parent were pretty cool in the early-70’s, though Plante was an old codger by then. Mike Palmateer had the goal to himself when Leafs next made noise in the late-70’s, as did Felix Potvin in the early-90’s; Curtis Joseph in the late-90’s and Ed Belfour at the turn of the century. So, I ask again: When was the last time Leafs had as spectacular a netminding combo as today?

Do I hear Bower and Sawchuk, or is that an echo?

Though Bernier was acquired from Los Angeles to effectively supplant Reimer in the No. 1 hole – and began the season doing just that – Reimer has gained immeasurable ground in a span of just more than 72 hours. That’s roughly how long it took Reimer to stop 80 of 81 shots in consecutive victories over Pittsburgh and Edmonton – the latter, a 4-0 whitewash of the Oilers at Rexall Place here last night.

The imperturbable native of Morweena, Manitoba withstood a flurry of chances in the final minutes of the game to record his 11th career shutout and second by a Maple Leafs goalie this season (Bernier blanked Nashville by the same score, Oct. 10).

JAMES REIMER IS INTERVIEWED LIVE ON SPORTSNET BY PAUL HENDRICK MOMENTS AFTER STOPPING 43 SHOTS TO BLANK THE OILERS LAST NIGHT HERE IN EDMONTON.

All it has done is re-open the question: Do the Leafs have an irrefutable No. 1 netminder? Or, is the club, incredibly, blessed with two of them? As we speak, there is no evidence to argue the latter. Bernier and Reimer have taken turns one-upping each other through 13 games – backstopping Leafs to a 9-4-0 record and first-place deadlock with Tampa Bay atop the Eastern Conference. Bernier is 5-4-0; Reimer 4-0-0.

REIMER WATCHES SECONDS TICK OFF THE CLOCK (ABOVE) AND THEN REACTS WITH PATENTED WAVE HEAVENWARD AFTER EARNING HIS 11th NHL SHUTOUT. OPTIMUS REIM IS CONGRATULATED (BELOW) BY MAPLE LEAF TEAMMATES.

Leafs flew to Calgary after beating the Oilers for a tough assignment, as tonight’s match with the Flames begins at 6 p.m. local time (8 p.m. Eastern) – one hour earlier than the game here. Rarely do teams in the NHL play on consecutive nights less than 24 hours apart. The initial plan had Bernier in goal for Game 2 of this western-Canada swing and though Randy Carlyle may be tempted to stay with Reimer, it’s unlikely he will. The Leaf coach seems to trust both his men equally. As did Punch Imlach, 46 years ago, with Bower and Sawchuk.

Photos, now, from last night, courtesy my trusty Nikon:  

FROM HOTEL WINDOW: SUN SETS BEHIND REXALL PLACE WITH COMMONWEALTH STADIUM AND BUILDINGS OF DOWNTOWN EDMONTON IN THE DISTANCE.

PRIOR TO THE GAME, HARMONY AMONG FANS OF BOTH TEAMS.

TEAMS WARM UP AT REXALL PLACE BENEATH BANNERS COMMEMORATING THE OILERS’ FIRST TWO STANLEY CUP TITLES IN THE LEGENDARY WAYNE GRETZKY ERA.

COLOR (ABOVE) FOR PRE-GAME LIGHT-SHOW AND NATIONAL ANTHEM.

TEAMS LINE UP AT CENTER-ICE (ABOVE) AFTER PHIL KESSEL’S GAME-WINNING GOAL FOR THE MAPLE LEAFS JUST 1:08 AFTER THE OPENING FACE-OFF.

JOFFREY LUPUL OF LEAFS (19) DIDN’T FIGURE IN THE SCORING, BUT HE TYPICALLY MADE LIFE MISERABLE FOR EDMONTON GOALIE RICHARD BACHMAN.

TEAMMATES CONGRATULATE KESSEL (ABOVE) AFTER HIS SECOND GOAL OF THE GAME – A REMARKABLE, SEEING-EYE SHOT UNDER THE CROSSBAR AT 8:42 OF THE MIDDLE PERIOD, AS REIMER LOOKS ON HAPPILY (BELOW) FROM THE OPPOSITE END.

REFEREE TOM KOWAL HAD A BUSY FEW MINUTES DURING A SECOND-PERIOD TIME OUT, AS HE WAS QUESTIONED BY DAVID CLARKSON AND SAM GAGNER.

LEAF PYRAMID OF CARL GUNNARSSON, JOFFREY LUPUL AND CARTER ASHTON LINES UP IN SECOND PERIOD NEXT TO ALES HEMSKY OF THE OILERS.

CENTER-ICE DOT AND CIRCLE AT REXALL PLACE REFLECTS TELEVISION LIGHTS AFTER ZAMBONI RE-SURFACING IN THE SECOND INTERMISSION.

FALSE ALARM: MAPLE LEAFS EQUIPMENT MANAGER BRIAN PAPINEAU (RIGHT) PUTS AWAY SOUVENIR PUCK AFTER IT APPEARED ROOKIE DEFENSEMAN MORGAN RIELLY (44) HAD SCORED HIS FIRST NHL GOAL AT 6:14 OF THE THIRD PERIOD. AFTER A REVIEW, HOWEVER, THE GOAL WAS AWARDED TO NAZEM KADRI.

REIMER WAS AWFULLY BUSY LATE IN THE GAME (ABOVE).

I TOOK THIS PICTURE IN THE THIRD PERIOD JUST AS A STROBE-LIGHT FROM ANOTHER PHOTOGRAPHER FLASHED IN THE ARENA – THUS THE DEPTH OF COLOR.

MY VIEW FROM PRESS BOX IN FINAL MOMENTS OF THE GAME.

BEVERAGES ALWAYS GO DOWN MORE SMOOTHLY AFTER A WIN, HUH RANDY?

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