Last night, during the Toronto Maple Leafs’ defeat of the Los Angeles Kings, starting goalie Jonathan Bernier left the game in the first period after allowing two goals on ten shots. It was reported a lower-body injury was the reason behind his early exit. Luckily for the Leafs, backup James Reimer shut the door on Los Angeles, allowing the team to rally to a 3-2 victory.
While the Leafs may not love the idea of their starting netminder leaving a game due to injury, one can imagine the club was less than psyched with what they found out today. According to TSN, Bernier was actually hurt before the game even started, and unsuccessfully attempted to play through the ailment. This news was probably not met with much excitement in Toronto.
Now, obviously the fact that Bernier tried to fight through the pain might imply the injury wasn’t too severe. Either that or the goaltender has a lot of pride. But still, he definitely risked exacerbating the injury. What if there was a collision in net, or if Bernier was forced to make an acrobatic save? Either situation could’ve made things worse for him.
Yes, in his mind the damage wasn’t severe enough to keep him from starting the game. On the flipside, this isn’t exactly the time of year the Leafs want to see their starting goalie take the ice while hurt. With the playoffs around the corner and Toronto looking to earn themselves a spot, the last thing the team needs is an injured starter.
For what it’s worth, they wouldn’t be in an awful situation if forced to rely on Reimer. The backup performed well last night, and has a little postseason experience. However, if Toronto felt comfortable enough with Reimer in net, they wouldn’t have gone after Bernier in the first place this past offseason. He was designated as the team’s starter almost right out of the gate, so you know he’s who the team wants to lean on in the postseason. Of course, he’ll need to be healthy, too.
Look, for all we know, Bernier’s injury might not be that bad at all, and this may come off as making a fuss about nothing. It’s not so much about the injury itself, though, merely wondering why he felt the need to tough through it. He’s very obviously going to be the starter come playoff time, and it wouldn’t surprise anyone if he’s just feeling the wear and tear of his first year as a starting goalie. He’s played in 50 games this year, double his career high. Nobody would call him out if he wanted to take a breather for the sake of maintaining his health for the postseason.
If it does indeed turn out to be minor injury, then we’ll move on and nothing more will come of this. But you wouldn’t be surprised if the Leafs heard this report and had a talk with Bernier. Look for them to start monitoring his starts in these final few weeks of the season, just to make sure their starter will be at full strength come playoff time.