Sharks’ Reimer makes incredible save, hears cheers in San Jose, but faces uncertain future
SAN JOSE – San Jose Sharks goalie James Reimer saw the puck slide over to Mason Appleton, who had most of the yawning 4’ x 6’ net to shoot at from his position a few feet away from the crease.
The only thing Reimer could do, as his body was pointed in another direction, was to extend his goalie stick back to try and cover some small portion of the net.
“I just heard the Homer (Simpson) scream in my head,” Reimer said. “That was pretty much all that was going on.”
Somehow, Reimer stopped the shot, keeping the Winnipeg Jets from tying the game, and providing the Sharks with a rare highlight in what’s been an all-too-dreary season on home ice.
“Unbelievable. I stood up right away,” said Sharks winger Noah Gregor, who had a goal and an assist against the Jets. “Crazy save. I thought it was a for sure a goal for (Appleton). (Reimer) made a bunch of great saves tonight. That one’s going to stick out.”
REIM TIME. #SJSharks pic.twitter.com/uw8I9F5mFs
— TEAL TOWN USA – A San Jose Sharks Podcast (@TEALTOWNUSA) March 29, 2023
Reimer’s start Tuesday was arguably his strongest start of the season, making 41 saves — including a handful of the spectacular variety — to earn his third shutout of the year and lead the Sharks to a 3-0 victory over the Jets. The win was San Jose’s second win in the last 16 games, and just their seventh in 37 home games this season.
Reimer will likely play again Thursday when the Sharks (20-39-15) host the Vegas Golden Knights, as he tries to win back-to-back starts for the first time since mid-November.
And right now, two weeks removed from his 35th birthday, and in his 13th NHL season, Reimer is again trying to prove he can still play at a high level.
“I’ve still got the fire, so got the drive,” Reimer said Tuesday. “Still got that desire to compete.”
Like a few other players on the Sharks’ roster though, Reimer’s future in San Jose and in the NHL is uncertain.
Reimer, a pending unrestricted free agent, is in the second year of a two-year contract he signed with the Sharks in July 2021 and after Tuesday’s game, is 11-18-8 this season with a .895 save percentage.
Those numbers aren’t necessarily a direct reflection of Reimer’s play, as the Sharks have been plagued by turnovers and puck-management issues for most of the season. Even Tuesday, Reimer had to make a partial breakaway save on Adam Lowry, who intercepted a blind Erik Karlsson pass on a Sharks’ third-period power play, to preserve the shutout.
“He’s had a good year,” Sharks coach David Quinn said of Reimer. “He had a little stretch there where I know he wished he had played better. But he had a really good start, and he’s been good lately. So I think everybody has something to prove, regardless of what their age is, or if you’re going to be an unrestricted free agent.”
Still, with the Sharks’ team save percentage ranking near the bottom of the NHL, general manager Mike Grier has said addressing the team’s goaltending woes will be one of his top offseason priorities.
It also needs to be noted that Reimer and the Sharks were not on the same page when it came to the team’s Pride night at SAP Center on March 18.
While all other Sharks players who dressed for that night’s game against the New York Islanders wore Pride-themed warmup jerseys in support of the LGBTQIA+ community, Reimer, a devout Christian, did not, citing his religious beliefs.
The Sharks have made clear their support of such initiatives and Reimer’s decision made headlines across North America.
Reimer’s been vilified by some who feel his beliefs are bigoted and narrow-minded, and defended by others who want to see his individual rights protected. The NHL has said, with regards to players opting out of wearing the Pride-themed jerseys, that they are “free to decide which initiatives to support, and we continue to encourage their voices and perspectives on social and cultural issues.”
Reimer’s start Tuesday was his first at SAP Center since the team’s Pride night.
“It’s one of those things where I just tried to focus on hockey and kind of just do my regular routine, really,” Reimer said. “Obviously, I’m here to play hockey and every day, I come to the rink and try to give my teammates my best. That’s the main thing I was focusing on this week.”
Whether Reimer’s stance will play a role in the Sharks’ decision to offer him another contract is not totally clear.
Tuesday, anyway, there were no discernable boos or jeers toward Reimer from those in attendance. While the Sharks announced that 10,387 tickets had been distributed for the game, the actual number of people in the seats appeared to be only about 60-70 percent of that figure.
Mostly, though, they cheered Reimer, especially after seeing him make one of the most impressive saves of the season.
Asked if he was curious about how Sharks fans might react to him, Reimer said, “not too much. Obviously, people are entitled to their opinions but today I was focused on just playing hockey and playing hard for the guys, and trying to give them my all, like I try and do every night.
“The fans, I think, were receptive of me and they were fired up tonight, and I thought the whole night they were engaged in the game.”