Jonathan Bernier has been waiting for a chance to prove that he’s capable of being a starting goaltender in the NHL. He couldn’t do that behind Jonathan Quick in Los Angeles, but he’s taking full advantage of the opportunity he’s been given as a member of the Toronto Maple Leafs.
The 25-year-old netminder has been nearly unbeatable so far. In four games, he’s posted a 0.85 GAA and .974 save percentage, making him one of the primary reasons that Toronto is off to a 4-1-0 start.
Of course, he didn’t win this one alone. Phil Kessel scored a goal and registered two assists. The Maple Leafs also widened their lead with two power-play goals in the third period courtesy of Tyler Bozak and Joffrey Lupul.
When this season began, Bernier and James Reimer were expected to compete for the starting gig. Bernier has pulled away in that race, but the campaign is still young. Reimer will get another chance, although after what happened tonight it wouldn’t be surprising to see Bernier start again on Saturday against the Edmonton Oilers.
Apparently Blue Jackets management is a little shaken by the second 0-3-0 start in franchise history, however.
Columbus GM Jarmo Kekalainen shared his shock and dismay with the Columbus Dispatch’s Aaron Portzline on Tuesday.
“I’m surprised how, in just five days, we’ve gone from a very confident group to something that’s the opposite of that,” Kekalainen told The Dispatch on Tuesday. “Our confidence, our game … it’s off the rails right now.
Maybe losing to the Buffalo Sabres stings a little bit extra?
Kekalainen said “there’s no excuse for how we played in Buffalo,” pointing out that every team in the NHL is a “good team.”
Indeed, just about every squad boasts some dangerous weapons if they catch an opponent sleeping.
Portzline goes deeper on Columbus’ recent history of stumbling out of the gate, but consider the foreboding stretch coming up.
Next four games: Three out of four at home Eight games following that: Seven out of eight on the road.
As you can see, winter is coming for Columbus, so they best get things together. All things considered, this is the right time for a wake-up call.
For bonus chuckles, here’s a photo of Kekalainen on a railing.
He entered the building considerably later than usual, but his presence at least opened the door for the possibility of No. 8 suiting up against the San Jose Sharks.
Instead, the Capitals will face the hot-starting Sharks without Ovechkin (personal reasons) and Nicklas Backstrom (injury).
That’s a tall order, yet it’s also an opportunity for Barry Trotz to prove his system is a difference-maker … and that the Capitals have the young players to take up the mantle when the big stars are out
This is how Washington’s forward lines may look tonight:
With Ovechkin out, Caps lines look like this: