In a night with a handful of goaltending injuries, the only one that matters to me is Garret Sparks. I’m writing this through my tears (kidding, kind of), so bear with me if I misspell anything or just start mashing the keys in agony.
How about that Bernier, though?
*whispers* pity point, pity point, pity point…
So let me start by saying: if this loss is pinned on Jonathan Bernier, then he’s finished with the team for good.
The netminder was thrust into the game following an injury to interim starter Garret Sparks, who left the game after just half of the first period. He went on to have, in theory, a comparable game to Martin Jones – who allowed four goals on 32 shots, while Bernier would allow just three on 27 – and ultimately lost in overtime on a heartbreaking deflection by his own player.
Every time I watch the Leafs, I’m reminded that I had my doubts about Mike Babcock – and that those doubts were probably pretty wrong. His ability to work the system to create a possession machine from a roster full of middle-tier players who are likely just a few years past their prime is impressive; if they brought the San Jose Sharks to extra minutes, they’re doing something right.
James van Riemsdyk looked good, Leo Komarov looked good, and Peter Holland reminded fans why he’ll probably be a depth piece the club wants to hold on to in the long run. Even Bernier looked good; this game could have gone south pretty quickly, but he’s the reason they went to extra minutes.
It’s hard to applaud a netminder for earning a team the pity point, but Bernier did his best.
If I have a criticism, it’s that first period. Toronto ultimately boomeranged back and used momentum to pull themselves back into the game, but that first period was slightly reminiscent of hot garbage. Best to use that as a harsh reminder; goaltending is important, but a stronger first period could have really affected this game in a big way.
I want to call Jonathan Bernier the blue warrior (and almost want to call Garret Sparks the blue warrior for giving this team hope they can win again), but I think that Peter Holland gets this one.
The 24 year old centre walked away from tonight’s game with a goal, an assist, three shots at Martin Jones, and nearly 20 minutes of ice time. Do I consider Peter Holland a top line guy? No. Do I even consider him top six? Not really, no. He’s got the work ethic to push the team to remain competitive with a sub-par roster, though, and that’s important in a rebuild year.
He’s young, he’s strong, and he’s effective. I may like Peter Holland’s jaw line, but his game’s growing on me, too.
On to the Desert
The Leafs next play the Sharks, then head on the road to Colorado. Finally, they’ll play their last game before Christmas break when they hit Arizona, where – you guessed it – I’ll be present in the lower bowl to report to you live.
Gila River Arena is a treat, and despite what Ryan Getzlaf said, it’s got a momentum-changing atmosphere. The Coyotes have been a strong home team this year, so it should be exciting to watch them take on one of the most fascinating rebuild teams around the league. It’s my only opportunity to watch the Leafs live in 2015, so I’m taking it.