How Will Jonathan Bernier Perform with the Red Wings in 2020-21?

In a season full of disappointments, the 2019-20 Detroit Red Wings didn’t have much to be excited about. However, one of the bright spots on the roster was netminder Jonathan Bernier, who led the team with 7.2 points shares. Now entering his third season with the team, Bernier will be competing with newly acquired Thomas Greiss for the starting goaltending spot. In a season filled with unknowns, here’s my look at trying to predict how the 32-year-old from Laval, Quebec will perform in the 2020-21 season.

Reliving Jonathan Bernier’s 2019-20 Season

In 46 games last season, Bernier had a record of 15-22-3, posting a .907 ave percentage (SV%) and 2.95 goals against average (GAA). He did all of that while having one of the worst defenses, which gave up the most five-on-five goals (168) and the fourth-most shots against (2,329) all season. It was a defensive unit that did little to support Bernier, and former Red Wings netminder Jimmy Howard, and left a lot to be desired.

Bernier’s best performance last season came on New Year’s Eve 2019 when he stopped all 34 San Jose Sharks’ shots in a 2-0 shutout victory at home. It was the only Red Wings shutout in 2019-20 and it occurred when Detroit started in the offensive zone on just 26.8% of faceoffs (their third-lowest percentage in a game last season). It gave fans a glimpse into how well this team can play when its goaltending and defense are on the same page and working effectively.

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San Jose Sharks vs. Detroit Red Wings, Dec 31, 2019/NHL YouTube

Bernier had 17 “quality starts” — starts with a save percentage greater than his average save percentage for the year, or a save percentage greater than .885 with 20 or fewer shots against — which would make him the 31st goalie in that category. All Detroit fans are asking for is a little improvement, from both Bernier and the defense. With all the offseason changes the team has made, one would think this team gets better. It’s just a matter of putting it all together.

What to Expect from Jonathan Bernier in 2020-21?

In his career, Bernier has a 2.76 GAA and .912 SV% and makes an average of 28 starts in a season. In two seasons with the Red Wings, he has a record of 24-40-8 with a .906 SV% and 3.04 GAA. He’s started in 71 games for Detroit and, while all of those numbers need to get better, there’s a good chance that this will be his best season in Hockeytown.

Jonathan Bernier Detroit Red Wings
Jonathan Bernier, Detroit Red Wings (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

I think it’s fair to say that this will be the best defense that Bernier has had since joining Detroit. My colleague Patrick Brown highlighted the Red Wings’ defensive upgrades and those improvements should benefit the entire team, especially at the goaltending position. It puts Bernier in a better position to succeed than in years past.

A captivating factor coming into next season will be time off and rest. Bernier has not played any competitive hockey since March, like the rest of the Red Wings, and you would think that would help the 32-year-old. Sure, there’s a chance for rust, especially at the beginning of next season. However, considering that Bernier has never had this much time off before in his career, I expect that he’ll be prepared and possibly starting on opening night.

Boom or Bust for Bernier?

Bernier is an unrestricted free agent after this season, so one could say that he’s playing for his next contract. He’s probably not going to love having Thomas Greiss on the team since he’ll take starts away, but he understands that the Red Wings are better with Greiss than not. If he can start around 40 games (or whatever the equivalent might be in a shortened season) and post stats that are closer to his career average, he’s surely going to get a pay raise from his current $2.5 million base salary. If that happens, look for Bernier to continue being a “bridge” netminder for Red Wings after this season.

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