James Reimer is probably wondering when he will get his next start over Jonathan Bernier, as Bernier was shaky, allowing five goals on 32 shots in an embarrassing 7-1 loss to the New York Rangers on Saturday.
Bernier had strung together a number of good starts, but he kind of hit a wall in his last game. He was not getting any support from his defensive crew either. They looked lost at times, and were completely overwhelmed by the pressure applied in their own zone.
However, there were some saves that he simply should have been able to make. After looking like an elite goalie in the Winter Classic, I was surprised to see Bernier perform below the expectations that coach Randy Carlyle has for him.
For the record, Reimer was not exactly a stabilizing force after Bernier was pulled from the game. He stopped 16 of 18 shots, which is still not a great performance (.889 save percentage). To me, this game might just be thrown out as an anomaly, and there might be reason to go back to Bernier.
This may not seem to make much sense to fans who want to see a change after Bernier did a poor job Saturday night. I personally think that is a great reason to start him on Tuesday against the New York Islanders. Carlyle can find out what kind of ability that Bernier has to bounce back.
It could be considered a test of the mental toughness of Jonathan Bernier. It takes guts to have a good start right after a poor one, and it shows one’s ability to put their mistakes behind them. Bernier is the lesser known goalie between him and Reimer, so it is never bad to see what you’ve got.
That is why I would not personally start Reimer in the next game. Carlyle knows what he is getting from him, as he has been down this road before. If Bernier hits a cold spell, then Reimer could step in. He is a capable starter. In my opinion, Bernier is the one who has the greater upside, which is why I think the job is his to lose.
No matter how bad a start he had on Saturday, I don’t think that Bernier should lose his job over one game. Too many teams are quick to switch back and forth between goalies and give people the chance to give or take the job based on a few games. Since Reimer is a known commodity, I think it would be better to get to know Bernier.
January is a month packed with games, so there should be plenty of opportunities to see both goalies, unless Reimer or Bernier happens to get hurt. Obviously, the play in goal is not the problem right now for the Toronto Maple Leafs. Bernier is better than Reimer statistically (2.53 GAA, .928 save percentage against Reimer’s 2.89 GAA and .923 save percentage).
I would be disappointed to see this team return back to Reimer as a No. 1 because of the way that Bernier has played this entire season. If Reimer had performed better, I might have felt differently, but I think it would be a mistake to use him outside of the backup role.