Not everything has gone right for the Florida Panthers this season, but their goaltending has rarely been a problem.
When the Panthers went after James Reimer during the offseason, they envisioned a strong tandem in net with Roberto Luongo getting much of the workload but Reimer playing more than previous backups.
So far, the plan has been working.
On Saturday night in Dallas, coach Tom Rowe gave what would usually be Luongo’s start to Reimer saying the Florida backup “deserved it” following a hard-fought 3-2 overtime loss to Montreal on Thursday.
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In some places, such a move would draw whispers of a goalie controversy brewing.
Nothing could be further from the truth with the Panthers.
“Reimer could get three, four starts in a row,” Luongo said, “he’s playing very well right now. This was the plan all along, getting him some more time. I think everything has been working great. All I care about is us winning games right now.”
Reimer, who signed a five-year deal in the offseason, took advantage of the New Year’s Eve start and held Florida’s early three-goal lead in a 3-1 win over the host Stars by making 35 saves.
“Once we got up 3-0, I knew we weren’t going to give that up,” coach Tom Rowe said.
In his past seven starts, Reimer has given up three goals or fewer and he stopped 94 percent of his shots in December.
The Panthers have not said who will start Wednesday’s game against the visiting Winnipeg Jets although regardless of who it is, the Panthers are good with it.
“We were close the past couple of games and weren’t able to get over the hump so it was really nice to close that game out and get two points,” said Reimer, who spent most of his career in Toronto before being traded to San Jose last year at the deadline.
“Like anyone else, you want to be able to play in the games. It’s fun to be able to get in there in back-to-back games. I’m glad we won. We had a great start.”
The play of Luongo and Reimer has given confidence to a Florida team which has, at times, struggled to help them out offensively.
Keith Yandle, one of Florida’s new acquisitions this offseason, says it’s nice to know the Panthers are going to be good in net regardless of who gets the start.
Luongo adds that with a compressed schedule, Florida needs both of its goalies to be strong at all times.
“We signed [Reimer] so Luongo could get the rest when he needed it,” Rowe said. “I wouldn’t even call him a No. 2 guy, he’s more like 1-B. He played unbelievable Saturday and was really good the night before. He’s a gamer.”