Jonathan Bernier was brilliant again last night in Nashville, stopping all 36 Predators shots in a 4-0 Toronto win.
With the shutout, Bernier’s save percentage rose to a ridiculous .974, the highest among regular starters in the NHL. And while three starts and one relief appearance is a small sample size, Maple Leafs fans have to love what they’re seeing from the 25-year-old who was acquired this summer in a trade with Los Angeles.
Believe it or not, the Leafs were the only team that really seemed to want Bernier, according to Kings general manager Dean Lombardi.
“(Toronto GM) Dave Nonis was really the only one who was seriously interested in him,” Lombardi told ESPN.com. “Everyone else was just tire-kicking. I was shocked at the lack of real interest. He had proven himself again last season. The other reason I think people overlook Bernier is because he is small; they overlook his hockey sense which is his best asset.”
To get Bernier, the Leafs had to send backup goalie Ben Scrivens, forward Matt Frattin and a second-round draft pick to L.A. — hardly a king’s ransom (no pun intended, but what the heck, it works.)
At the time, the move drew criticism from some who wondered why Nonis would choose to give up anything for Bernier when James Reimer was coming off a good season for the Leafs. But in hockey history, not many teams have been doomed by having too many quality goalies, and if Bernier establishes himself as the number one in Toronto, Nonis can always trade Reimer for something in return.
Speaking of teams that may be in the market for a goalie at some point, the Leafs host the Oilers on Saturday.
For the second time in his career, Ryan Kesler is wearing an “A.”
On Thursday, the Anaheim Ducks announced that Kesler would serve as one of the club’s alternate captains this season, taking over for Francois Beauchemin, who signed in Colorado this summer.
With the move, Kesler joins Anaheim’s existing leadership group of captain Ryan Getzlaf, and alternate Corey Perry.
“It’s an honor,” Kesler said, per the Ducks. “It’s special. I’m going to wear it with pride and lead by example.”
As mentioned earlier, Kesler has some experience as an alternate — he wore an “A” in Vancouver from 2008-13, but had it removed prior to the start of the ’13-14 campaign.
It’s not surprising Anaheim went in this direction. GM Bob Murray made a huge investment in Kesler this summer by inking the 31-year-old to a six-year, $41.25M extension.
Could Raphael Diaz be on his way back to Switzerland?
We’ll know in a month.
Diaz, who lost out on the Rangers’ final blueline spot in training camp, has reported to the club’s AHL affiliate in Hartford but doesn’t seem pleased with his current situation, per the Post:
The 29-year-old Diaz, who cleared waivers last Saturday after the Blueshirts opted to keep rookie Dylan McIlrath as the club’s seventh on the blue line, is interested in the European option if he is not in the NHL.
The Blueshirts have told Diaz they will revisit the situation at the end of October, but have not promised to release him or assign him to a European team at that point.
If Diaz, a Swiss native who represented Switzerland in the 2014 Olympics, does play in Europe during the season, he would have to go through waivers in order to return to the NHL.
Diaz’s agent, Ritch Winter, told the Post that Diaz signed a one-year, $700,000 deal with the Rangers “to play with the Rangers.”
And it’s understandable if Diaz — a journeyman offensive defenseman — isn’t happy with this situation.
While some believe McIlrath earned his roster spot on merit, some think it’s because of his contract status. McIlrath, who’s only 23 and a former first-round pick, would’ve needed to clear waivers to go back to Hartford, and it’s believed he would’ve been claimed by another club.