It took half the season, but after 42 games the Toronto Maple Leafs have finally settled on the team’s No. 1 goaltender.
There’s no doubt remaining that Jonathan Bernier has established himself as Toronto’s No. 1 goaltender after recording his third straight victory during a 3-2 shootout victory over the Detroit Red Wings in the Winter Classic. Bernier turned away 43 of Detroit’s 45 shot attempts while standing on his head to earn the Maple Leafs two big points in the standings. The win saw Toronto pass Detroit in the standings as the Maple Leafs own 47 points while the Red Wings possess 46 points with both teams having played the same amount of games.
There’s something different about the Maple Leafs when Bernier is in net compared to James Reimer. The team appears to play calmer and with an added boost in confidence with Bernier between the pipes compared to Reimer. There’s no question Bernier has better rebound control along with significantly better puck-handling abilities, but for whatever reason it just seems Toronto plays harder in front of Bernier. It’s not like the team is deliberately playing bad with Reimer in net, but it just appears as if the players on the ice believe in Bernier more than they do Reimer.
It doesn’t help that Reimer has been pulled in the first period in two of his past four starts, including his last start nearly two weeks ago. Although Reimer has proven he’ll never quit on a play and has the type of competitive fire coaches wish existed in all their players, he’s become visually frustrated with Toronto’s goaltending controversy. After being pulled two weeks ago he was seen glaring at Coach Randy Carlyle, appearing to be upset over being pulled too early in the contest.
Bernier hasn’t shown any frustration with the goalie controversy and is letting his play on the ice speak for itself. Now that Bernier has won three straight it appears the Maple Leafs are finally settling on a goaltender and aren’t looking to share the workload between both goalies like they were in the first half of the season.
The man the Maple Leafs acquired in the offseason from the Los Angeles Kings to compete against Reimer has finally won the No. 1 job.