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Detroit Red Wings

Red Wings Have No Choice: They Must Ride Reimer

Reimer stops 25 shots for slump-busting triumph



James Reimer, Red Wings
Red Wings goalie James Reimer has won four of his last five starts.

Desperate times call for desperate measures, as was evident midway through the third period of Saturday’s Detroit Red Wings vs Buffalo Sabres game at Little Caesars Arena.

Clinging to a 2-1 lead, the Red Wings were pulling out all the stops to protect their slim advantage. Thus, those in attendance were treated to the rare sighting of a Patrick Kane bodycheck on Buffalo forward Jordan Greenway.

Speaking of rare sights, Saturday afternoon’s tilt would end in a 4-1 victory for the home side. Detroit’s first win since Feb. 27 brought to a halt the club’s seven-game losing skid.

The win also put the Red Wings back into a playoff position. They are holding down the second Eastern Conference wild card spot, one point ahead of the New York Islanders.

Many clad in the winged wheel had a hand in this outcome. None were more of a factor in the success story than goaltender James Reimer.

Reimer Delivers For Red Wings

Handed just his third starting assignment over the past 13 games, Detroit’s veteran backup puckstopper was moving to the front of the class. Reimer parried 25 of 26 shots. He’s won four of his last five starts.

“High, high compete,” Detroit coach Derek Lalonde said of Reimer. “He just battled around the net. I think he lifts our guys a little bit.

“One against versus a team like that, that’s a very strong performance.”

Strong enough to bring forth an even stronger statement. As the Red Wings roll into Pittsburgh for a Sunday night showdown with the Penguins, the choice is obvious: Reimer must be given a second straight starting assignment.

Alex Lyon is deserving of plaudits for the heights his netminding has enabled the Red Wings to rise to. They are at the level of playoff contender. Lately, though, the wheels have come of Lyon’s game. Is he worn down from the workload, or simply battling a slump?

This debate is immaterial. The fact of the matter is that Lyon is fighting the puck. And when goalies fight the puck, the puck always wins.

Lalonde Isn’t Committing To Reimer

The difference in Detroit’s game was noticeable to even the casual observer. This was a Red Wings teammate committed to the forecheck, determined to take time and space away from the Sabres. Was it a case of a team that was simply fed up with losing? Or was the factor of playing in front of a goalie who gives them a touch more confidence at the moment also playing a role?

When teams aren’t trusting of their goalie, they get tentative. Pressuring the puck is surrendered in favor of a more passive approach. the fear is by attacking on the defensive, they will leave themselves open to odd-man rushes, or even breakaways, which they don’t trust their netminder to save.

However, by sitting back, they do the opposite of their objective. They’re allowing the opponent to generate speed through the neutral zone and gain easy access to the attacking zone, thus leading to more scoring chances.

While this can’t be 100% attributed to the goalie switch, Reimer’s early saves certainly bolstered a Red Wings team that ultimately would gain a lead for the first time in 280 minutes and 34 seconds of hockey.

Reimer is 4-1 through his past five starts. However, he’s not been in the net for back-to-back starts since Dec. 20-22.

Depsite his solid showing Saturday, Lalonde still wasn’t ready to commit to a Reimer start on Sunday.

“Obviously the instinct will be to go back to him after a win,” Lalonde acknowledged. “But he is 35 and not many goalies in this league go back to back.

“So I’ll probably have a better feel after I consult with our goalie coach and kinda go from there.”

Actually, Reimer turned 36 on Friday, but that’s also immaterial. Considering what’s on the line, consultation shouldn’t be necessary.

The only correct answer is to start Reimer on Sunday.