James Reimer didn’t fall asleep until well after dawn. “Just lying there, thinking about it.’’
That’s how he’d ended the season too, just lying there, on the ice in Boston, though incapable of thinking through what had just happened, synthesizing it, not in the dreadful finality of the moment, 6:05 of overtime.
“You can’t even feel sad,’’ the Maple Leaf goalie was saying on clean-out day at the Air Canada Centre, epitaph day. “You feel sad now but in that moment it was just — you don’t know what happened, how the puck went in. On that play, I did everything my instincts told me to do. But the puck went flying over there, right on his tape and that’s it, your season’s done. There’s no tomorrow, there’s no next day, there’s no get ’em next time.
“It’s just done. It’s an empty feeling. And it doesn’t go away.’’
Since then, even at dinner with teammates Wednesday, Reimer’s mind did wander away from that sore and tender spot because that’s how the brain copes with mental trauma, takes over to preserve heart and soul. “You go through the day and you forget about it for a while, you’re doing something else, talking about something else. Then all of a sudden you remember and you just get that sinking feeling in your gut again.’’
It’s a stage of grief he’s describing.
Perhaps that might sound too strong or inappropriate a term for the aftermath of losing a playoff series. It’s not a death in the family, for goodness sake. But mourning can’t always tell the difference; the same feelings of loss are triggered until perspective is gained, which requires time and distance.
Three days later is far too soon for emotional rebounding. Only the immediate numbness has worn off. “It doesn’t hurt any less.’’
Masochistically, Reimer made it even harder on himself. He looked at videotape of those concluding minutes of regulation time from Game 7 and the OT. Now it’s burned into the tape loop in his head, that Patrice Bergeron 5-4 goal. “It was a shot that came in, hit me, the rebound popped out and it kind of squirted to the side. So I pushed over to my right and then the puck squirted to my left. I kind of fell back trying to keep it out. There were guys there trying to sweep the puck away and it ended up going on Bergeron’s stick. I was just lying there and I tried to get my stick and my glove over but it found a way through …’’
Reimer had stopped so many more dangerous shots than that, or had been saved by the good graces of fate while the hockey gods were still smiling on him. But his goaltending style — blocking butterfly, playing the percentages the puck would hit him, rather than reactionary and more athletic butterfly, as typified by Tuukka Rask — ill-served Reimer during Toronto’s late collapse.