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.
Bernier turned aside 36 shots, including 17 in the second period alone to earn his seventh career shutout and lead Toronto to a 4-0 victory over the Nashville Predators.
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.
Alain Vigneault has maintained for much of the season that the New York Rangers needed to play better.
The head coach said it a week ago, after the Blueshirts had beaten the Predators, 3-0, despite getting outshot, 31-19.
He’d said it a couple of weeks before that, after they’d beaten the Hurricanes in very similar fashion. (Final score: 3-0. Shots: 33-23 for Carolina.)
But as long as the Rangers kept winning, it was tough, according to Vigneault, to get the message across.
“Sometimes, the results might be going your way, so when you’re pointing out certain things, it might be a little bit more challenging for them to understand because the results are so positive,” Vigneault said, per the New York Post.
“But after three losses in a row, I think we’ve got everybody’s attention.”
Derek Stepan‘s injury — he’ll miss 4-6 weeks with broken ribs — has no doubt captured their attention as well. (Oscar Lindberg will center Chris Kreider and Jesper Fast tonight at home to Carolina.)
The Rangers also play Wednesday, in Brooklyn against the Islanders (on NBCSN).
Stars winger Jamie Benn, Capitals goalie Braden Holtby and Canadiens center Alex Galchenyuk have been named the NHL’s three stars for the past week.
Benn shared the League lead in goals (4) and points (6) as the Stars (19-5-0, 38 points) won two of three games to continue their best start to a season in the franchise’s 48-year history.
Holtby posted a 4-0-0 record with a 1.75 goals-against average, .945 save percentage and one shutout to backstop the Capitals (17-5-1, 35 points) to the top of the Metropolitan Division standings.
Galchenyuk tied for first in the NHL with four goals and added one assist to help the Canadiens (18-4-3, 39 points) earn five of a possible six points and reclaim first place in the League standings.
As much as the injuries to Carey Price and Brendan Gallagher have been frustrating for the Canadiens, those are short-term issues that should be forgotten soon enough. Galchenyuk’s play, in contrast, is reason for long-term optimism. The 21-year-old is trending towards becoming the elite No. 1 center the Habs have needed so badly. He’s not there yet, but when’s all said and done, he could turn out to be the best forward (or player, period) taken in the 2012 draft.
Derek Stepan is out 4-6 weeks with broken ribs, the New York Rangers announced today.
Stepan was hurt Friday on a controversial hit by Boston’s Matt Beleskey. The Bruins’ forward did not receive any supplemental discipline for the check, despite admitting it was “maybe…a little bit late.”
At any rate it’s a big loss for the Rangers, who suddenly find themselves on a three-game losing streak. Considering the timeline, New York could be without one of its top centers for 12-18 games, give or take.
The Rangers host Carolina tonight.
Related: Yep, Alain Vigneault went there — ‘I remember Aaron Rome in this building’
Carey Price will miss a minimum of six weeks with a lower-body injury, the Montreal Canadiens announced today.
That means Price will miss the Winter Classic against the Bruins on New Year’s Day. The 28-year-old goalie has only appeared in 12 games this season.
On the bright side, the reigning Hart Trophy winner will not require surgery. And considering the Habs have already built up a 13-point playoff cushion in the standings, well, if something like this were going to happen during the season, now is as good a time as any.
Related: The latest on Price’s injury