Florida Panthers: James Reimer’s 2017-18 Season Recap

SUNRISE, FL - MARCH 24: Goaltender James Reimer #34 of the Florida Panthers defends the net against Richard Panik #14 of the Arizona Coyotes at the BB&T Center on March 24, 2018 in Sunrise, Florida. (Photo by Eliot J. Schechter/NHLI via Getty Images)
SUNRISE, FL - MARCH 24: Goaltender James Reimer #34 of the Florida Panthers defends the net against Richard Panik #14 of the Arizona Coyotes at the BB&T Center on March 24, 2018 in Sunrise, Florida. (Photo by Eliot J. Schechter/NHLI via Getty Images) /

The 2017-18 season saw James Reimer yet again show flashes of greatness, but not enough consistency to win the starting spot for the Florida Panthers.

Reimer finished this season with a 22-14-6 record, with a .913 save percentage, giving up a hair less than 3 goals a game with a 2.99 goals against average. He started over half of this season’s games with Roberto Luongo struggling with injuries, faced the most shots of his career in a season, and had his most career wins.

He also had his worst GAA and worst save percentage since the 2014-15 season, playing behind a rebuilding Toronto Maple Leafs franchise. His GAA that season was 3.16 and his SV% was .918.

After a poor opening game, giving up 4 goals on 30 shots against the Tampa Bay Lightning, Reimer won the starting job when Roberto Luongo went down injured against the Pittsburgh Penguins. Reimer’s month of October was horrendous, posting a 3-4-1 record and a .880 SV%, giving up 25 goals in 8 games.

Reimer didn’t get a lot of help from his defense, however, he certainly didn’t do himself any favors. James has consistently struggled with his rebound control throughout his stint with the Panthers, and it hadn’t improved during the month of October either.

This goal above from Alex Galchenyuk is a perfect example of how the defense and Reimer both started slowly to the season. Reimer has such an easy angle to cover with Brendan Gallagher breaking in from the right flank, and positions himself very well, making sure that for Gallagher to score, he really only has one option: try to slide it to the opposite post.

Reimer makes the initial save with his stick, but backs up while making the save, allowing the puck to deflect back into the slot. One of the two Panthers defensemen at the time should’ve been the first man to the rebound opportunity, but the rebound shouldn’t have been there to start.

His month of November also went poorly, starting the month giving up 4 goals on 19 shots against the Columbus Blue Jackets, losing his spot as Roberto Luongo returned from injury. He played poorly against the Los Angeles Kings in a 4-0 loss, but made some great saves on Jimmy Vesey and Rick Nash in a 5-4 win against the New York Rangers at the Garden, saving 33 of 37 shots.

Reimer held the goalie job for the entire month of December and really turned his form around with an awesome end to the month, giving up just 15 goals in the last 9 games of the month. James won the Panthers a lot of points, including a 39-save performance against Arizona, and his first two shutouts of the season against the Ottawa Senators and the Montreal Canadiens at home, saving 38 shots in each game. Reimer won 3rd star of the week in December, behind New York Islanders playmaker Mathew Barzal and Boston Bruins shot-stopper Tuukka Rask.

This was one of the 39 saves Reimer made to preserve a 3-2 win in the desert against the Coyotes. Down 1-0 late in the second, a 2-0 hole really would’ve put the Panthers into a lot of trouble, but Reimer moves perfectly across the crease, perfectly following rookie sensation Clayton Keller’s movement to the goal, making a breakaway save look easy.

This is something James Reimer consistently does best. Reimer is a very nimble goaltender, who has very good movement for his size.

During an average January, Reimer suffered an injury on the 23rd against the Dallas Stars and was taken out of the game just three minutes in. Two days later, the injury was identified as a pulled groin, and Reimer would miss around 3 weeks.

Harri Sateri had joined the Florida Panthers through free agency and picked up the backup job, but now was pressed into starting. Sateri went 4-4 with a .911 SV%, facing an average of 32 shots when Sateri plays over half of a game.

Sateri had some really good performances which included a 42-save loss to the Washington Capitals, limiting both the Vancouver Canucks and the New York Islanders to 1 goal, and a 30-save game against the Buffalo Sabres.

With the added pressure on him, Reimer struggled on his return in February, with a rough 3 games on a Western Canada trip, giving up 15 goals in 3 games against the

Edmonton Oilers

, Vancouver Canucks, and

Winnipeg Jets


Anton Slepyshev’s goal may have just been a consolation for Edmonton, as the Panthers went on to win this game 7-5, but Reimer has to save this shot because of how well he sets up the situation. Similar to the Galchenyuk goal mentioned earlier, Slepyshev is positioned to where he can only go: the opposite post.

Reimer knows where the shot has to go, yet still can’t keep it out with a glove save. The goal goes in, and an Edmonton crowd who’d been taken out of the game after 3 unanswered Panther goals comes back into the picture.

The push for Harri Sateri to be the second goalie in the depth chart was growing throughout both the fanbase and the coaching staff after February’s abysmal performances, but March would be James’ month. Reimer went 5-1-1, giving up just 13 goals in 7 games, and produced two shutouts, including a 46-save performance in a 3-0 win versus Boston on his 30th birthday.

Reimer’s pressure mostly was taken off of him with the improvement to the defense during the second half of the year, as he averaged facing 5 fewer shots a game in comparison to the first half.

He faced just 220 shots during the month of March, which is less than the 245 shots he faced in October, and 443 shots he faced in December. As long as Reimer can prevent feeling overwhelmed by the shots that he faces, he can hold his own.

He’s still considered the butterfly goalie for the Florida Panthers, as he is able to move his body across the crease almost effortlessly, stopping a lot of forwards’ strategies. With that, his rebound control hasn’t improved as much as the front office wanted it to at this point into his contract.

Reimer’s contract is also a looming presence over his head, earning $17 million over 5 seasons is a hefty price for a backup, and is the 28th highest contract for a goalie, which means many backups earn less than Reimer’s payday. In fact, starting goalies Brian Elliott and John Gibson are making less than Reimer.

The major question is whether Reimer will remain the Panthers’ backup to start next season. Performance-wise, James’ effort after coming back strong from his groin injury really did keep him high among the depth chart, but Sateri’s great week that saw him win 2nd star of the week despite not even being on a team a month before speaks volumes.

Reimer’s contract is the biggest issue for him at the moment, especially for a team like the Panthers looking to build through free agency and trades.

Next: Roberto Luongo’s 2017-18 Season Recap

James Reimer’s second year in Florida was filled with highs and lows, and questions of whether he’ll have a third year with the Cats next season are looming across and beyond July 1st.