Jonathan Bernier set to return from conditioning stint

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Much has been made about the recent woes of Toronto Maple Leafs goaltender Jonathan Bernier in both local and national press, with the former 1st round draft pick posting an 0-8-1 record in nine games so far this season.

On several occasions in the opening part of the season, Bernier has conceded soft, soft goals. Non moreso than Derek Stepan of the New York Rangers effort earlier this season. Stepan, in the midst of a change, threw the puck on net only to find the smallest of gaps between the legs of Bernier.

Add to this soft goals conceded last season from centre ice on shots from Oliver Ekman-Larsson and Radek Dvorak and you have a goaltender that has been struggling for the better part of a full year with confidence, positioning and rebound control.

Type “Bernier beaten from centre ice” into any search engine and several entries, along with video evidence, will happily pop up in glorious HD video for all to see.

Alongside his 0-8-1 record, Bernier has a 3.28 goals against average and a save percentage of .888. These are not the stats of an elite level NHL goaltender, which Bernier is hoping to one day become. And the bottom line of the fact is this: Jonathan Bernier is not an elite level goaltender. Nor, for that matter, is the Leafs’ other goaltender James Reimer, on the same logic.

What he is, is a very good starting goaltender at almost any NHL team. Unfortunately, despite his willingness to take a short conditioning stint in the AHL with the Leafs’ affiliate the Marlies – where he posted 3 shutouts in 4 appearances, with a .948 save percentage – Jonathan Bernier’s days appear to be numbered as a starter with the Maple Leafs.

Garret Sparks has looked solid in back up to Reimer, and as a starter when James Reimer was sidelined with a lower body injury, and the Maple Leafs hold Marlies starter Antoine Bibeau in high acclaim.

On a team that has, until recently, given up the most amount of shots in the entire league, simple mistakes will just not cut it with the fans. As recently as last season, bewildered fans took to Facebook and Twitter to berate struggling James Reimer (and his wife) for his struggling form, and similar has been thrown at Bernier this season.

Jonathan Bernier is set to start on Tuesday night against the Tampa Bay Lightning after ten days in the American Hockey League and only time will tell if the confidence he has gained from playing with the Marlies will equate to a better goals against average, but one thing is for certain at some point in his career: Jonathan Bernier will become an elite level goalie. Let’s not forget that he was drafted 11th overall by the LA Kings in 2006.

Unfortunately, I think the only thing that Bernier is good for within the Maple Leafs organisation is trade deadline day bait in a rebuilding Leafs, who will be hoping that Bernier can pick up speed and confidence quickly to enhance the trade value.Bernier 1

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