John-Michael Liles could hear the yells. "Johnny … Johnny … hey, hey, hey …" It was James Reimer, down on his knees like he was stretching in warmup. Except it was the second period, and play was going the other way.
And you had to wonder what was going through the mind of the man assigned to the USA Hockey seat in the Foster Hewitt Media Gondola. Monday's 5-2 win for the Toronto Maple Leafs over the Philadelphia Flyers had to be right out of Brian Burke's Book of Hockey Fantasies.
Remember Colton Orr, whose inability to find an NHL job last season left Burke railing about how the rats were taking over the game at the expense of honest thugs? There he was, scoring the Leafs second goal on his first shift of the second period, the fourth line setting the tone for the rest of the game.
James van Riemsdyk? The forward Burke acquired from the Flyers in his last deal before being fired as Leafs G.M.? Yep … there he was, scooting around the player Burke traded to get him, Luke Schenn. All Burke needed in his return to the Air Canada Centre for his night to have been capped off would have been for Orr to beat the bejeezus out of somebody. But, you know what they say about two out of three, eh?
As it was, Burke's successor as Leafs general manager, Dave Nonis, will be the one spending a sleepless night. Reimer – once called "the real deal," by Burke and described post-game as "our rock," by van Riemsdyk – had to be helped off the ice by Liles and a member of the training staff at the four-minute mark of the second period, after coming up lame in an innocuous sequence around the Leafs net.
"Honestly, I thought he was yelling about something in the play," said Liles. "He was trying to get my attention and the referee's too, I think. When I asked him what happened, whether one of their guys ran into him, he just said: 'Nah, I was just trying to push off.'"
Ben Scrivens came on to replace Reimer and was given a three-goal cushion at 4-1 when Clarke MacArthur ripped a one-timer from the slot past Flyers goalie Ilya Bryzgalov – who was subsequently replaced by Brian Boucher – and Reimer's backup held the fort the rest of the way as the Leafs survived a five-minute boarding major assessed to Korbinian Holzer.
The Flyers, who opened the scoring when Wayne Simmond scored on the games first shift, didn't beat Scrivens until Tye McGinn tallied with 31 seconds left.
Dion Phaneuf and Matt Frattin were the Leafs other goal-scorers as Toronto beat Philadelphia for the first time in six games and won for the second time in six games at the Air Canada Centre, as Scrivens stopped 32 of 33 shots fired in his direction and defenceman Mark Fraser rounded out a solid night for the Leafs second-tier players, finishing a resounding plus-five.
Head coach Randy Carlyle said that Reimer would need further tests on Tuesday (an off-day for the Leafs.) He described the injury as a lower-body injury, adding: "He (Reimer) shouldn't miss any extended period of time,:" while acknowledging the club would likely need a backup for Scrivens for Thursday's game in Carolina against the Hurricanes.
The Leafs have been a lousy team at home this season, so there was reason for concern about their ability to build on Saturday's 6-0 beat-down of the Montreal Canadiens, their third win in as many road games. Luckily, the Flyers are a lousy road team, despite their quick start on Monday.
"The first game back after a good road trip always seems to catch people by surprise," said Carlyle. "It's not the start you want when the other team scores on the first shift."
And so the Leafs are 8-5, and hands up if any of you saw this coming. Who knows? Monday's game might even have been a step toward re-establishing some type of home-ice advantage. Just in time, it seems, for everybody but Brian Burke.