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Saturday night Leaf fans saw the boys in blue and white pull off a very impressive comeback win in the battle of Ontario in their tilt against the Ottawa Senators. What the fans may also have seen is a glimpse as to how the team may look for a very large portion of the season. This may have been the game that saw Jonathan Bernier steal the net from James Reimer.
On Saturday night Reimer got the start in net against the Senators having had quite a track record against their Ontario rivals where he had put up an impressive 8-1-1 record in his previous contests against the Sens. Unfortunately for Reimer, after giving up 4 goals on 21 shots (including the final two coming within a span of just 15 seconds of one another) Jonathan Bernier saw his first action at the Air Canada Centre.
To say that this change in goal was the turning point in the game would be a complete understatement. The Maple Leafs were able to tie the game at 4 at the 2:52 mark of the third period and from there Bernier kicked out every puck that came his way. The Leafs would take the game in a shootout with goals by Leafs’ Raymond and Bozak, while Bernier turned away shots by Milan Michalek and Jason Spezza.
The first two games of the season saw Reimer and Bernier split the decisions and after both tenders were named first star in their respected games it seemed as though the controversy about who might be the Leafs starting goalie this season was just getting started. However, after the events that took place on Saturday it seems as though Leafs nation might be singing a different tune.
After Bernier made a miraculous glove save the crowd could be heard chanting “Bernier! Bernier! Bernier!” making it quite clear who their faith was now in. Many more of these type of saves followed during the game including a sprawling pad save on Sens Captain Jason Spezza with just over a minute left to play in the game. This save in particular was one that stopped what looked to be a sure goal and helped to send the game to overtime.
To start the season it was made clear by management that starts would be shared amongst both goalies until one faulted or one seemed to rise above the other. Going by the schedule laid out it was already expected that Bernier would be starting Tuesday night when the Colorado Avalanche come to town. After the performance that Bernier put up on Saturday stopping all 15 shots he faced, it seems even more clear that Bernier will get the start and one must think that if he puts up another great performance that it will be hard for Carlyle to pull the hot net-minder from the net.
Through Bernier’s first game and the action he saw Saturday he has amassed an astounding 0.974% save percentage and 0.64 goals against average, allowing just one goal against on 47 shots. Bernier has also proved his value in shootouts going perfect Saturday while also stopping Flyer’s forward Wayne Simmonds on a penalty shot last Wednesday. Historically this has been a part of the game that Reimer has never been very strong at.
Despite just giving up 4 goals in the contest it seemed, especially after one puck went by him, that Reimer got flustered and lost his composure. Reimer has had a tendency to scramble for pucks often leaving him out of position and in desperation to make a save (as was seen on Jared Cowen’s second period goal). Bernier on the other hand has looked to be much more calm and composed in the net and because of this always seems to be in the right position and ready to face his shooters. Something that maybe Reimer needs to look at in his game if he wants to steal the net back.
It is obviously too early to assume that Bernier has stolen the starting role completely from Reimer especially after just one game in which Reimer slipped up. However, it is hard to look past the great play of Bernier. Reimer will likely see another opportunity for him to claim the position that prior to this season had his name on it. In saying that if Reimer doesn’t step up his play it looks as though Bernier may achieve exactly what he came to do in Toronto. Leaf fans there might be a new sheriff in town.
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