This time last month, the question around Los Angeles was whether Jonathan Bernier would ever get a chance to play. As adored as Jonathan Quick is to the Kings faithful, their fans certainly weren’t born yesterday. They knew the aftermath of back surgery, especially for a goaltender, would be crucial and while he played decently to start the year, it was evident that Quick wasn’t playing up to his Conn Smythe form.
Equally as concerning was the status of Jonathan Bernier who despite representing Canada in the Spengler Cup this past holiday season, hasn’t played for his NHL team since last March so rust was definitely a factor.
When the Kings lost to Anaheim by a score of 7-4 at the Honda Center on February 2, Kings fans were left with a bitter taste in the mouth. Losing to your hated rivals doesn’t sit well with anybody regardless of the situation. Jonathan Quick was pulled after allowing two goals and three shots and Bernier (in his first appearance of the season) fared little better allowing four goals on 21 shots. With that said, while both goaltenders had forgettable nights, fans had no reservations giving either netminder the benefit of the doubt.
Quick may have had an off-night but for all he did for his team last year from October right through to June in addition to the aforementioned back surgery he had in the off-season, it’s a no-brainer when it comes to giving the 26-year-old a free pass. As for Bernier, well, like I already mentioned it, it was his first start of the season and considering how long it’s been since he played for the silver-and-black, another free pass was warranted.
Since his relief appearance against the Ducks four weeks ago, Jonathan Bernier dazzled everyone in his next four starts, turning away 91 of the 95 shots he faced which equals a save percentage of .953. Now, the skeptics would be quick to point out that Bernier’s opponents weren’t exactly intimidating. The Blues were sliding having start the season off on a hot streak, neither the Blue Jackets or the Flames are playoff teams and, well, what’s Detroit’s excuse? That Niklas Lidstrom retired? However you want to put it, I’m having none of it. The aforementioned excuses are weak at best. No matter how good or bad a team is, anyone in the NHL can take advantage of a rusty goalie and the fact that Bernier stood tall In each of his outings since Anaheim failing to allow more than one goal in each of them shows the immense resiliency of the former Lewiston MAINEiac.
Given Darryl Sutter’s history of sticking with one goaltender, Jonathan Bernier’s chances of playing looked slim to none. What was initially seen as a need to have Number 45 play to increase his trade value has since turned into a need to relieve Quick who will need to rest a little more this campaign despite it only being 48 games long. With that said, there is absolutely no need to trade Bernier now. Never mind how well he’s playing but while Quick still is the #1 guy in the Los Angeles net, he won’t be able to do it all himself this year – and for those who believe otherwise underestimate just how significant back surgery is.
The Los Angeles Kings’ current five-game winning streak has been a joint production. The defense has done their part, the offense has chipped in a bit more, Jonathan Quick has contributed nicely while Jonathan Bernier is giving himself a confidence boost with each passing game.
Don’t be too quick to dismiss the backup because in Los Angeles, it’s almost unfathomable to think where the Kings would be without theirs.