Toronto Maple Leafs Jonathan Bernier Gets Another Lifeline


You could feel the collective breath come out of the arena when Garret Sparks left the ice midway through the first period, even if you were watching on your television. With the young netminder pulling himself out of the game for what has been revealed as a lower body injury, there was only one option for the Toronto Maple Leafs, Jonathan Bernier. Already down 2-0 to the San Jose Sharks, and with their goal having already been under siege, you could not blame anyone for calling it a night. What any fan who turned the game off at that time missed was perhaps the moment that Jonathan Bernier saved his season and maybe his career.

Entering cold from the bench, Bernier mustered up a great effort despite eventually losing in overtime 5-4. Unlike what Leafs’ fans have been used to this season, Jonathan Bernier was not the reason the Leafs lost. His performance was solid and he made several key saves throughout.

What the game against the Sharks has done is brought up more questions about the netminder. What was different about last night’s game, and can we expect this type of play to continue, are questions that many are asking today.

As far as what was different about last night, there were some definite factors but also a noticeable difference in Bernier. The aspect most noticeable last night was that Bernier looked composed. For the first time in a while, he did not look like he was overthinking the game or pushing too hard. You could say he gave the appearance of being more relaxed.

His movements transitioning from spot to spot were smoother than in previous games. Positioning wise he was sound and he played what appeared to be a more controlled game including rebounds. These things point to a goaltender who was focused and not pressing.

One factor to this may have been coming off the bench. The mental aspect of preparing for a game has more than likely been difficult for Bernier during this prolonged slump because of the constant media attention.

Even though a player should always be prepared to play, mental preparation for starting in goal versus being on the bench is much different. This may of helped him relax as he did not have the time for his mind to be going through the full highlight reel of his mistakes before stepping on the ice.

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The final factor which could have been key was the game situation Bernier found himself in. Down 2-0 midway through the first relieves a lot of pressure on a goalie coming in. This goes hand in hand with the mental aspect, but it also has an effect on the rest of the team.

Being down two, the Leafs were not thinking we have to play perfectly to get Jonathan a win, the mindset shifts to we need to be aggressive and get back into this game. The focus was far from being on who the netminder was behind them and what they had for him, but instead on how are we going to get some goals and get back in this game.

Next: Toronto Maple Leafs: When Sparks Goes Down

What this means for the Toronto Maple Leafs and Bernier in particular, is number 45 will be handling the workload in the crease until James Reimer is healthy enough to take back the net. Toronto currently has no other choice but Bernier.

There will be none of the factors discussed involved the next time the Leafs take the ice so we could very easily see Bernier regress to his previous level. The one thing that may have changed because of last night is the confidence level by Bernier in himself and the team in Bernier. Bernier has been given another opportunity or lifeline depending on how you view it. The question remains as it has all season, can he take advantage of it or has the bright glare of the Toronto hockey universe claimed another goalie.