Leafs Postgame: AHL call-up Bernier falls just short of first win

For the first time in a week, the Leafs saw themselves playing actual hockey games against actual NHL teams. In a nine-goal affair, the Torotonians came out on the losing side of this one, falling 5-4 in overtime to the Stamka Bay L91ghtning. 

Jonathan Bernier has been one of the best AHL goalies this season, but it’s unfortunate that his success hasn’t been able to translate to the top level. Bernier registered just 22 saves on 27 shots, still trailing Garret Sparks and 62 other NHL goaltenders in the win column this year. 

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The Rundown

Bernier was in tough from the get-go, giving up a goal to Nikita Kucherov 2:59 into the first period.

To his credit, the newly-promoted netminder shut the door for much of the next two periods, as the Leafs went 3-1 up on goals from Tyler Bozak (his 100th in his career), James van Riemsdyk and a third one on a sweet shorthanded rush from whiz kid Morgan Rielly shortly after one of those penalty kills that just lights up the crowd. Not a huge believer in momentum or causality of these two relatively unrelated events, but Rielly definitely seized the opportunity in a game-changing moment.

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A 3-1 lead into the third would’ve been a nice cushion for the young prospect Bernier to have, but he fell victim to a shot by former Leaf Anton Stralman with just 36 seconds left in the frame. The Lightining would strike quickly (never heard that one before) with a pair of goals in a 36 second span six minutes into the period to equalize and then  regain the lead, and the Leafs saw themselves gasping for points in a game they appeared in control in. Daniel Winnik eventually tied it up after Roman Polak tossed a puck into a sea off bodies in front of the net and the puck somehow found its way in, and despite chances at both ends, the game headed for overtime as the hotshot Bernier had a chance for redemption of his earlier woes.

Unfortunately, the perils of 3-on-3 overtime proved too tough for our first-time hero in this story, with Vlad Namestikov (still think that sound like a videogame name) potting the winner.

In all seriousness, this was a game that Jonathan Bernier really could have used the victory in. Despite a trio of strong conditioning games at the AHL level, he isn’t the same goaltender he was in the past- and this funk at the top level is concerning, to say the least. Perhaps he’s just one game away from ending it, but tonight was not that night.

Lightning captain and media darling Steven Stamkos was held off the scoresheet, limited to just a single shot on the night., while putting up just a 36% Corsi at even strength. In most other games, that wouldn’t be a story, but tonight, it’s obviously part of the narrative. Despitethe fact no one really know where Stamkos will play in his future, it’s a fun storyline, for sure. It’s fun to imagine a player of Stamkos’ calibre suiting up for Toronto, regardless of the cap implications, his potential (or current?) decline, his actual views on the subject. The bottom line is, it’s fun to live in that world, and it would be a major shakeup if such a deal were to occur. We’re going to milk the udders until there’s no story left, or until Justin tells us to stop. 

Stamkos didn’t will this team to win to win tonight, but he did come away with the two points. That’s what real leaders do.

Back to the fun aspect, this was a pretty fun game to watch, with multiple lead changes and some great individual efforts. The Leafs fired 37 pucks on net, and probably played well enough to win on most nights, but a costly stretch in the third period likely cost them the extra point.  

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Blue Warrior

Tyler Bozak earns it for his pair of assists and his reaching of a pair of milestones. 100 goals isn’t an easy thing to do at any level, and it’s even harder when you’re Tyler Bozak.

Up Next

The Leafs play the Sharks Thursday night at 7:30 p.m. I hear Joe Thornton’s eyeing a return back to play in his home country…

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  • Kanuunankuula

    100 goals is no big deal at the NHL level, even David Clarkson managed that feat. I don’t know why people are talking up how great Bozak is. Kadri is much better centre offensively and with puck possession.

    Also like Bozak, Mandela’s grandson is not an NHL calibre goalie. Time to trade him just to get him off the team. And what did Reimer do to Babcock to lose the starting position?

    • Kanuunankuula

      Don’t believe anybody has said Bozak was great. Trading Bernier would require a team to be interested. And Reimer is injured, which would make playing him a little tricky.

  • Kanuunankuula

    I think it’s time to bring Sparks up and put Bernier down to the Marlies and hope he doesn’t clear waivers.The Leafs are going to loose on him either way.

    Let Reimer and Sparks run with it for the remainder of the year and see what happens.

  • Kanuunankuula

    bernier to the coyotes for picks. enough is enough. he’s been getting goal support and the team has consistently outshot the opposition and made comebacks with him in net after deflating early and last second goals. he needs to go. toronto is not the place for him. trade him at the deadline or earlier. even bernier is an upgrade over smith/lindback.

  • jimithy

    Bernier has to be the smallest goalie in the league. He’s listed as 6’o”. No way. Something is amiss. Even with the modern inflated equipment he looks really small. Unless they make the puck bigger this guy is not going to help.

  • TGT23

    Okay, I’m just going to say it. This was unacceptable. And I don’t just mean Bernier.

    The 3-2 and 3-3 goals were created by turnovers and terrible defensive work. Leaving a skater, in both cases, wide open to skate in unchecked on the goalie. Reimer or Bernier, it doesn’t matter. You can’t leave a guy wide open, give him that much time, and expect anything positive to come of it.

    Just brutal.

    The 5-4 goal was basically the same as the 3-2 and 3-3 goals. A guy left to walk right in and snipe the goalie. Except it was 3-on-3 OT and that stuff just sort of happens.

    Really a game Bernier needed, and between defensive breakdowns and him not making a timely save, he didn’t get it.

    But, I look forward to “some” ignoring what happened in the game entirely to tell us some narrative or another. Blame everything on the guy, call all the goals bad goals, and pretend it is based in reality.

    And then “another” to say 1-20. Still factually incorrect (even though the reality isn’t exactly good, either). But since when does that matter?

  • Gary Empey

    To quote Monty Python, “Always look on the bright side” as Bernier is helping the leafs to get a better chance at the number one pick.

    Rumours have it that Bernier is a huge Philadelphia 76er fan as they also have one victory.

  • Gary Empey

    I’m tired of these Bernier haters coming in here and claiming he has only 1 victory over a certain length of time. He had three shut outs in a row against really stiff competition. Now you haters will point out he has allowed 5 goals in his last two games.

    I say to you , Picky, picky, picky.

  • Kanuunankuula

    Wow, Polak on that 3rd goal against… His D partner says to take the man…then Polak points for the back checking forward to take the man and Polak takes…. THE GUY THE OTHER D IS ALREADY COVERING. And the man scores. Now I understand all the comments about how bad he is :P.

        • jimithy

          “Somehow,” another assist for Roman Polak on a late tying goal that took us to Overtime! Still leading the team in the “garbage” category of +/-, still breaking up cycles and clearing the crease, still annoying the hell out of fools who hope to wish away the part of hockey that involves defending.

          • TGT23

            Still stuck in his own end all night, still awful on the breakout. Funny that everything he’s said to do well is below the circles in his own end. Could be because he never leaves that area, but I’m no expert.

        • Gary Empey

          Like the rest of the analytics, I only place a small amount of weight of plus/minus.

          In general, the plus-minus statistic is interesting to examine so long as you use caution. One has to consider the contributions to power play and penalty killing units, which will not be reflected in this statistic.

          The plus-minus statistic has value, but the trick is to consider it in the right context and realize its limitations.

          With some commenters here, Polak always seems to have a bulls-eye on his back.

          I am not suggesting Polak is great.

          At this moment in time, Babcock considers him the 5th best defenceman in the Leaf organization. Anyone who is 5th and 6th on the depth chart is considered high risk to be replaced by a better player. So far no one has stepped up in Babcock’s opinion to replace him.
          Myself, I think his value alone, just on the penalty kill is likely saves one goal a game.

          Perhaps when the goalie situation is sorted we may see a new Marlie defender come up to take his spot or the 6th defenders spot.

          • Kanuunankuula

            5th is being pretty generous. If he was played by virtue and his play alone, he’d be in the pressbox instead of Corrado. There’s a pretty strong case that he’s behind Marincin, Harrington and Corrado in the depth chart.

            He’s pretty much played so that someone will pick him up.

          • Gary Empey

            Corrado, Marincin, and Harrington are all weak defensively. That is the reason they are not always in the line up. And when they are their ice time is very limited.They have potential to be top four pairing but simply aren’t there yet.

            Babcock doesn’t let anyone tell him who to dress. He dresses the players he feels give him the best chance to win the game. Then plays them accordingly. He coaches and lets management, manage.

          • Kanuunankuula

            Gary I usually agree with you but do you really think Babcock along with the 19 other guys dressed that night really feel Bernier gives the team the best chance to win. Tell me that you were using satire as I’ve got people in here thinking I’m a Bernier fan. I tell you the more absurd you get in here the more some of these folks believe you. It truly is bizarre.

          • Gary Empey

            If you step back a little and look at the big picture, Babcock had three choices.

            1. Play an injured Reimer as Cooper did with Bishop in last years finals.

            2. Play a young, promising, yet very inexperienced AHL emergency call-up rookie.

            3. Play Bernier after just coming back from a fairly successful reconditioning stint in the AHL. (3 shutouts, one overtime loss)(7 of a possible 8 points).

            I can’t imagine Babcock truly liked any of those choices but he had to chose one. Looks like he is going with the emergency call-up next.

    • TGT23

      sadly, corrado was forced to play with polak on his offside and still played better than him. corrado covered his man. polak decided to tell komarov who was 10 feet away and dead tired to cover his own man while he attempted to cover the guy corrado was already covering… that’s so polak. sorry corrado that you were paired with polak for your first nhl game with the leafs… hope you get a real partner soon.