It’s the logical move to make. Mike Babcock today confirmed what most had already expected: that Garret Sparks, not Jonathan Bernier, would get the start in goal for the Leafs tomorrow when they host the San Jose Sharks at Air Canada Center.
Bernier, of course, has had a rough go of it this year. He’s fresh off of a conditioning stint with the Toronto Marlies where he put up 3 shutouts in 4 games played, but his final start with the team saw him allow 5 goals in an overtime loss. While the hope was that Bernier would put that last start behind him and build off of what he did in his first three games for the Marlies, it didn’t come to fruition last night against Tampa Bay, where Bernier allowed 5 goals on 27 shots in an overtime loss to the Bolts.
So when you consider not only this, but the bigger picture – that Bernier is 0-8-1 in 10 games played for the Leafs this year with an .881 save percentage – it’s little surprise that Babcock is turning back to Garret Sparks for at least one game. Sparks has a 3-1-0 record and a .921 save percentage for the Leafs so far this season.
Maybe the Leafs mishandled this whole thing. Maybe they should’ve had Bernier back up Sparks for his first game back in the NHL to get him re-acclimated to the tempo of NHL games. It also might have made sense to sit him in his first game back considering he was coming off of a really poor final performance for the Marlies. It seems like that really would’ve been a no-lose situation, and you could’ve then turned to Bernier Thursday against San Jose, even if Sparks played well and earned the win against Tampa Bay. But then we have to consider the possibility that Bernier might not have played well against San Jose. And if that happened, where would you go from there?
In any event, it’s a mess of a situation. With Reimer still on the shelf, it’ll be interesting to see how the Leafs continue to split the starts in his absence moving forward. Hopefully Bernier can get it together at some point, because it’s not good for anybody to have him playing this poorly. Until then, I guess we’ll see how things go.