NASHVILLE — James Reimer doesn’t skip a beat when he points out the biggest difference between his old team and his new one.
And no, it’s not the obvious—that his San Jose Sharks are in the playoffs, with a 2-1 lead in their second round series against the Nashville Predators, while the Toronto Maple Leafs are coming off a season in which they finished dead last in the NHL.
“Less hoopla,” Reimer says, grinning, after an optional off-day practice at Bridgestone Arena. “Less of a circus.”
Since he was traded in late February, there has also been less playing time for Reimer, who’s backing up first-year starter Martin Jones, the 26-year-old from Vancouver who’s been solid throughout San Jose’s playoff run (2.36 GAA, .914 save percentage) after posting the third-most wins of any goalie during the regular season (37 wins in 65 starts).
Reimer has yet to see any playoff action, but was outstanding in the eight games he started for the Sharks in the regular season, posting three shutouts with a 1.62 GAA and .938 save percentage.
“I think that’s indicative of the team,” the 28-year-old says, of his own play. “As a team, we give up less chances and we play well defensively and it shows well on your goalie.”
Reimer was one of a handful of players who skated on Wednesday, the off-day ahead of Thursday’s Game 4. The last time he played in the post-season was with the Leafs in that epic collapse in Game 7 against the Boston Bruins. He’s now focused on being ready for action if and when he’s needed with the Sharks.
“I don’t know when it’s gonna happen, if it even will,” he says. “Right now I’m just trying to practice hard and stay ready and support Joner.”
Dan Rusanowsky, who’s been the radio play-by-play announcer for the Sharks since their inaugural season, says the coaching staff believes every player has to contribute in the post-season.
“You have to know there’s a chance to get in; you never know,” Rusanowsky says, though he doesn’t believe Reimer will get a start.
“I think Martin Jones is the goaltender. If the other guy has to play, they have full confidence in him. He’s been good. And he’s been a good teammate. He knows what he’s gonna have to deal with here, his role. He’s been really professional.”
Though he hasn’t had a chance to play in the playoffs yet, Reimer says he’s enjoying being a part of this run.
“The biggest thing that stands out, there’s not too much of an ego. They’re all really good guys. They take pride in what they do, and winning.
“You look around the room, you got [Patrick] Marleau, [Joe] Thornton, [Joe] Pavelski, [Dainius] Zubrus, [Brent] Burns—guys that have played a lot of games and been through a lot of situations, and so there’s way less ups and downs. It’s more that they stay even-keeled. They have confidence and a belief that they know what they can do, they know what makes them successful.”
Reimer is working on his playoff beard, but he admits it’s pretty weak compared to the ones his teammates are sporting. He isn’t into oiling it, like a lot of Sharks are. He tried it once, “but it felt kinda weird.” Brent Burns oils his twice a day. Joe Thornton’s beard is so full that it’s growing a solid inch away from his face on either side.
“It’s nothing compared to some of these guys,” Reimer says of his own blonde beard. “I had a really nice neard [neck beard] when I was 20 or 21 in the ECHL. We went all the way to the finals, so I never shaved. It was pretty greasy. I couldn’t really grow much on my chin, but it was nice and gross down there on my neck.”
The netminder says he isn’t busting out another neard this year, though.
“I’ve been trimming. Just letting the beard part grow out.”
It’s definitely longer than any playoff beard he had going with the Leafs, who had only one short post-season appearance during his five full seasons there.
Reimer didn’t watch the NHL draft lottery last week, but he did keep track of the results—“I think like anybody, if Edmonton would have won we all would have quit hockey,” he says—and he was happy to see his former club win the No. 1 pick.
“Knowing how it’s been for the last couple years [in Toronto], what’s all transpired, I think it’s good,” Reimer says. “It’s good for the city, good for the team, good for the organization to get that spark and that positive excitement about possibly landing a real exciting hockey player.”
Thus, feeding the Toronto circus. Reimer might even miss it a little, maybe.
“It has its pros and cons. With a circus comes a lot of excitement, which makes it fun,” he says. “But also, when it’s a little more low key like it is here, you can hang out more and be more relaxed. So that’s good for the mind.”
So, too, is being a part of this playoff run.
“It’s been a lot of fun,” Reimer says. “Good group of guys, obviously a really good team. It’s amazing to be part of an atmosphere like this.”