In order for Toronto Maple Leafs goaltender Jonathan Bernier to be sent to the AHL on a conditioning assignment, the 27-year-old netminder had to green light the move. And when the demotion came, Bernier said it was deserving and he needed to go to the Toronto Marlies and find his game. Well, looks like Bernier found it.
Bernier has had two outings since being sent down to the Marlies and he’s won both. More than that, though, Bernier has performed spectacularly and is riding a two-game shutout streak. Friday, in his first game of his 10-day AHL stint, Bernier turned aside all 22 shots he faced in a 4-0 Marlies victory, and he again shut the door Sunday, stopping all 21 shots as Toronto won a 9-0 blowout.
“I’m here to get my game and play somee games,” Bernier said after Friday’s shutout. “If you don’t play games and you just practice, sometimes you lose that edge to go in the game. Tonight was one of those nights where I felt really good.”
Following Sunday’s game, Bernier echoed the sentiment about wanting to come back down to regain his confidence and get back to the level of play that led the Maple Leafs to ink him to a one-year, $4.5-million deal in the off-season. The good nights for Bernier were few and far between in the NHL this season and it’s to be seen if the conditioning stint really can help him turn things around.
Before the demotion, Bernier’s struggles were extremely evident and he had lost his starting job first to backup James Reimer and was then thrown in a backup role to 22-year-old AHL call up Garret Sparks on Nov. 30. Two days later, Bernier was sent to the Marlies.
With a save percentage of .906, Bernier ranks 37th of the 40 goaltenders to play at least 400 minutes at 5-on-5 this season. The only goaltenders worse than Bernier have been Colorado’s Semyon Varlamov, Edmonton’s Cam Talbot and Winnipeg’s Michael Hutchinson. Bernier is the only goaltender in the NHL to have started nine games and not register a win, and he has only been able to nab the Maple Leafs a single point this season when he backstopped Toronto to a shootout loss to the Buffalo Sabres on Oct. 21.
Bernier wasn’t spectacular in 2014-15, but he was much better than he has shown so far this season. In 58 games, he finished with a 21-28-7 record, two shutouts, 2.87 goals-against average and .912 SP. At 5-on-5, his .922 SP ranked 22nd out of 35 goaltenders to play 1,500 minutes.
The 10-day conditioning stint for Bernier will end this coming weekend, but the Marlies have three games before the weekend is up. The expectation was Bernier would start four of the six games during his stay in the AHL, which means he could start Friday and Sunday against the Utica Comets.
(All advanced stats via War-On-Ice)