One is struggling through one of the ugliest five-game stretches of his career, with an .871 save percentage and five straight starts that all turned into losses.
The other is a 30-year-old journeyman that has never started an NHL game.
Did we mention that one of the best teams, the St. Louis Blues, are in town?
That’s the tough call facing Toronto Maple Leafs coach Randy Carlyle on Tuesday, as starting goaltender Jonathan Bernier’s status is up in the air, and James Reimer and Drew MacIntyre are his only other options.
Carlyle typically never reveals which way he’s leaning when it comes to his netminders and that was again the case on Monday after a short optional practice at the Air Canada Centre.
“You make the decision on who you think is going to give you the best opportunity to have success,” Carlyle said. “That’s not going to change.”
Which goaltender that is at this point is up for debate.
Reimer clearly has the better track record and was the team’s No. 1 netminder last season and into the playoffs, so he would appear to have the edge overall. But the combination of a very difficult opponent and his recent struggles could be a toxic stew if the game goes lopsided early again and the Leafs very well could need Reimer for even more important games against Philadelphia and Detroit later this week.
MacIntyre, meanwhile, has bounced around a lot but has a long track record (more than 300 games) of decent success in the American Hockey League, where he’s been the Toronto Marlies starter the past two seasons.
MacIntyre’s career .917 save percentage in the AHL isn’t indicative of a guy that would be entirely out of his depth at the NHL level, but it remains a risk given how vital points are right now.
The Leafs likely need to pick up at least 11 points in their final nine games to make the playoffs, which may be a tall order given they have just two in their last seven.
There also remains the possibility that Bernier could make a quick recovery from his groin injury in time for Tuesday’s game, although all he would allow on Monday is that he is merely getting close to returning.
“Every day I’m getting better,” Bernier said.
“I can’t tell you that he’s going to be available to us tomorrow or the next day or the next day after that,” Carlyle said. “Obviously there’s outside pressures that come in when you’re not having success, but that’s something that has to be a sidebar. The player’s health is paramount.”