James Reimer and his Toronto teammates return to the scene of the crime Saturday night.
It’s a new season — some six months on — so the chalk outline of the Maple Leafs has been erased at TD Garden in Boston. But memories of a Game 7 collapse against the Bruins in last season’s playoffs may take longer to forget.
For Reimer, the post-season ended facedown in his crease after Patrice Bergeron scored at 6:05 of overtime to cap a miraculous 5-4 recovery for a Bruins team that trailed 4-1 some nine minutes into the third period.
Back in the post-season after a nine-year absence, Toronto had clawed its way back from a 3-1 series deficit only to see the first-round comeback crash and burn. It was painful for players and fans alike.
“That hockey game will haunt me until the day I die,” winger Joffrey Lupul tweeted the next day.
Reimer, who has been sharing goaltending duties with Jonathan Bernier this season, gets a chance to write some new memories in Beantown on Saturday.
“It means something, but I don’t think it’s as big a deal as I’m sure people are making it out to be,” Reimer said after the morning skate Friday. “If we win there (Saturday) it doesn’t reverse what happened last year. If we play them in the first round of the playoffs again, then maybe you can say there’s more of a story there. But it’s a regular-season game.
“Obviously there’s a history there and you want to play well and you want to win. But the main thing is the two points.”
Toronto (11-5-0) can also take solace from the fact that it arrives in Boston with a slightly better record than the Bruins (9-5-1).
The return to Boston holds no surprises for Toronto coach Randy Carlyle.
“We know that we can and we have proven to ourselves we can go in and compete with the Boston Bruins,” he said. “Simple as that.”
“We think we can go into any building and compete with any team as long as we stick to the game plan and execute,” echoed centre Nazem Kadri.
Leafs forward Jay McClement looked to take something positive from the playoff loss.
“Our goal is to not worry about it, but our goal is to get in to that situation again and handle it better,” he said.
Plus the Leafs have other things to think about, he suggested.
“We want to get our game back to where it should be,” McClement said. “It’s not really something that’s been brought up around here.”
Kadri said most of the memories had faded.
“It was a little tough before the season started and kind of waiting all summer and just having to deal with it,” he said. “Now that the season’s started and we’re kind of 15, 16 games into it, I think a lot of guys have forgotten about it.
“It’s still in the back of your head,” he conceded, however.
Reimer says the Boston meltdown can be used as motivation, although he insisted he was over it.
“It’s just a memory, it’s just something that happened in the past,” he said. “I’ve got lots of memories. It’s just something you learn from. It’s something you use to help you in every game, in every situation so far. Is it still there? Yeah. But it’s not a negative any more.”
“It’s something that happened, but it’s not at the forefront of your thoughts at all,” he added.
Reimer, who had the night off Friday after Bernier started a 2-1 shootout win over the New Jersey Devils, arrives in fine form. He has a 4-1-0 record with 2.36 goals-against average and .942 save percentage despite facing a nightly barrage of shots.
He made 43 saves last time out, some of the highlight-reel variety, losing 4-0 in Vancouver in a game that was not as close at the score indicated. It marked the 13th time in 15 games that Toronto has been outshot.
Prior to that, he blanked the Edmonton Oilers 4-0 in another 43-save performance that marked his 11th career shutout and stopped 37 shots en route to a 4-1 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins.
With files from Stephen Whyno