We all know how Jonathan Bernier struggled in the first two months of the Toronto Maple Leafs season. He let in early goals, sometimes the first shot he faced in a game. There was the dreaded shot from near-center ice. Of course, we can’t forget the fact he hasn’t even won a game this year.
It got so bad that the Leafs finally sent him down to the AHL’s Toronto Marlies on a 10-day conditioning stint. Bernier accepted the assignment. Since then, he has played three games with the team. In those three games, he has posted a shutout in each one. That’s right. He hasn’t given up a single goal. Pretty much the exact opposite of his performance with the Leafs so far.
So this means Bernier has found his game right? Ready to come back to the Leafs and take the NHL by storm. Not so fast.
If Bernier has proven anything while with the Marlies, it’s that he is too good for the AHL. The thing is, that didn’t need to be proven. That was pretty much common knowledge. All this has done is possibly given Bernier a confidence boost. However, it’s not like he’s beaten the best NHL teams. To truly gain that confidence back, he’ll have to perform well when he comes back to the Leafs.
The first opportunity to prove himself could come as soon as Tuesday against the Tampa Bay Lightning. It would surely be a test for Bernier, having to face the team that made it all the way to the Stanley Cup Final last season.
The problem however, is Bernier needs to win his first game back. A lot is said about the media in Toronto and how they’ll jump on a player that’s not performing well. Well, that is exactly what will happen if he doesn’t win his first game back. It’s doubtful that they will even be nice if he just gives the Leafs a chance to win.
The best Bernier can hope for is that the Leafs can have no problem producing offense in his first game back. That way the pressure can be taken off and he can relax. That has been the real problem with the Leafs this season. They haven’t found a consistent way to produce offense. While James Reimer and Garret Sparks have managed to keep the Leafs in games, Bernier’s struggles combined with the Leafs poor offensive output have led to his winless record.
While the rest of the season will be intriguing regardless, it could at least get off to a good start for Bernier if he wins his next game.