In the end, it was Jonathan Bernier’s game. He, after all, made the two spectacular saves against the Bruins in Anaheim. They looked like this:
In period two, the puck went from goalie’s left to right across the low slot. Bernier moved with it, but the side of the net was open. He put his paddle down and intercepted the puck as it was about to go into the open net off the stick of Patrice Bergeron.
Later in the period, with his team on the power play, Bernier saw the Bruins steal. A cross-ice pass led to a one-timer slapper. He made a spread-eagle blocker save.
These two stops were so pretty, so spectacular, that you might go a month watching NHL hockey and not see one. Amazing.
IH asked him after the game whether he replays saves like this in his head after they happen. “You’ve gotta move right on. It’s like a bad goal or anything like that. You’ve just got to stay in the moment and don’t think too much ahead or in the past.”
He wasn’t shy to talk about the saves afterwards, though on the Bergeron one, he said it was more a matter of just trying to get there than any particularly thought-through strategy.
“Marchand made a good play on the back door, and I just made a desperate save. The second one, I got as much in front of it as I could, and it trickled back and my D helped out.” Now, if that doesn’t seem like the second save I described above, that’s because it isn’t. The one he’s talking about, I’d categorize as more a lucky break, or a last-ditch no-goal. It’s not a save when it trickles behind you and almost squeaks in, but for your D.
Back to the Bergeron save, he later went through it again: “Marchand made a great play back door. I was expecting him to shoot quick, because was right in the slot. He made a pass back door, and it was one of those saves where you’re trying to, desperate save, just trying to get something in front of it.” He said he knew the guy was there back door, but you want first to take away the shot from the guy in the slot.
He said that he was excited about the chance to step back into the Anaheim net. “It’s what I’ve been waiting for, get in a rhythm a little bit and feel good about yourself. It’s not easy when you play once every three weeks. It’s nice to get games back to back.” He said that he was regretting Monday night, glad to get back and get out strong. He certainly did that.
Backstory on that: he was pulled after period one. More in a moment.
His teammate, Rakell, said of Wednesday, “He played great. He saved us a lot of times. They could have had two or three goals where they basically had an open net, and he was able to stop it. He was probably the main reason why we won tonight.” Actually, he saved Bernier. It was he who pulled the puck off the goal line to save a goal. He said, “I just tried to pull it out of there as quickly as possible.”
And Bieksa really spilled it. “I don’t know if you really know the story,” he began, “but we didn’t play well in front of him in Phoenix. We really felt bad about it afterwards, because it had been a while since he’d started a game, and he’s a great teammate, and works hard, and everybody wants to work hard for him and get him a win. But we let him down in Arizona, but he came back tonight, and stole one for us at times. Made some huge saves, and kept us in the game until we could get going.”
He commented along the way, “Unbelievable, Bernie battled hard,” which is a nice summary of the night’s netminding from the Anaheim POV.
Bernier said it’s been hard to maintain a competitive mindset when he’s playing so seldom (he mentioned “every three weeks,” and in fact, his last few starts have been that Monday start just mentioned, February 4th, January 21st and 23rd, and various scattered chances before that dating back to the beginning of the season. Only one stretch has he been seen for three contests in a row, and in these, not three whole games (December 13th, 15th, and 17th).
He faced 29 shots, made all but three saves, and was named fourth star for the evening. Wait. There are only three stars. He got none of them. Why not?
Because he might have won, and he did make those spectacular saves, but he also failed to make a couple that it looked like he should have. These were on Boston’s first and second goals. The first came off a slapshot from the point just off a faceoff. The second came in period two off a wrist shot from the point. There were three bodies—in Anaheim sweaters—in the way.
But still. The book on Bernier seems to be that he can’t pick the puck up from out at the blueline. This occurred to me in period one, when it seemed like the Bruins kept getting the puck back there to fire away. In a row, Boston’s Colin Miller took a blast from the point. Then Adam McQuaid floated a wrister from there. This was after that first goal had gone in.
All of this was forgotten because of the two great saves and the win. But you have to wonder if the game really puts the confidence back in the coach that this goalie can do the job. Unfortunately, he wasn’t available for his usual post-game chat. The team send Paul McLean out instead. He mostly mumbled clichés, and things ended in short fashion.
It’s likely Bernier will be seen again when the team next plays, which isn’t until Saturday at 1pm in Los Angeles. Why? John Gibson is hurt and wasn’t even on the bench. Lower body injury they say, though he finished the game Monday night after Bernier got bombed for three goals on six shots and took the loss despite playing only a period. No report on his timetable, but Jhonas Enroth is up on emergency recall should Bernier get soft. Given that in eight of the 20-plus games he’s played in this year he’s put in less than 60 minutes (some taking over from Gibson, some being yanked), it’s likely that the other player will also be seen sometime soon.
Rakell got two goals on the night including the eventual winner.
Cogliano was awarded a goal after being pulled down on a breakaway with an open net. The trouble was, the puck wasn’t in his possession at the time. It had skittered out ahead of him. Judgement call, but it made for the fifth goal of the night.