Just a few more thoughts on yesterday's news that goaltender Jonathan Bernier had been sent back to the Kings AHL affiliate in Manchester, NH.
It was the perfect move for the Kings and both Bernier and Jonathan Quick, the Kings number one goalie.
The 21-year-old Bernier has been a perfect 3-0 in the games he's played for the team this season, recording a 1.30 goals-against-average and a .957 save percentage. On March 30 against Nashville, he also posted his first career shutout and became the youngest goalie in Kings history to post a shutout.
Once the news broke that Bernier would also start last Thursday night's game against Vancouver, Kings coach Terry Murray went out of his way to reiterate that Quick was the Kings number one goalie and that he would be starting tonight's game against the Ducks. And both he and Quick also emphasized the fact that fatigue wasn't a factor in the decision, that Quick was getting some vital work in the practices and even the game-day skate for that Vancouver game, working on positioning, rebounds, absorbing the puck, minimizing second chances for the opposition. Murray also said that this was really the first time in the season that he'd had an opportunity to allow Quick to take a step back from the grind of just playing games and take a few days to just practice and sharpen his skills.
But the conjecture continued, particularly on the 24-hour hockey satellite radio circuit, where pundits weighed in, suggesting that Bernier might supplant Quick. Even though Quick had won 39 games, the speculation went, he had also logged a career-high 4,000-plus minutes, hadn't gotten enough work as a third goalie for Team USA during the Olympic break, and as a result hadn't been as sharp since. Bernier, on the other hand, was on a roll and even looked to be a more technically sound goalie than Quick, who relies more on his athleticism to make stops than the positioning that is the key component of Bernier's game.
Fast forward to Thursday night.
The Kings had what captain Dustin Brown called "statement" game against Vancouver, pummeling the Canucks 8-3, with Brown leading the way with a hat trick. For weeks, he and the other guys in the room had talked about putting a full 60 minutes together, honing their collective killer instinct, putting teams away earlier than later. It all came together against the Canucks and Bernier, of course, got the win.
And yesterday, once Quick's season-long backup Erik Ersberg came off the IR and back into the lineup for the team, the Kings made a very definite statement when they sent Bernier to Manchester. The Kings either had to officially call him up and or send him back. The opted for the latter.
They know what the kid can do in the NHL. And earlier in the day he was announced as the Monarchs lone representative on the AHL’s First Team All-Star team. In 56 games with Manchester this year, he has a 29-20-6 record with a 2.07 goals-against-average, a .936 save percentage and eight shutouts.
The Kings brass wants him back in Manchester to take the Monarchs as far as they can go. Bernier isn't the only future King on that team and it's important for those kids to make a run in their playoffs for the Calder Cup.
The move also accomplished something else for the Kings--peace of mind for Quick.
By moving Bernier to Manchester, they're telling Quick that, starting tonight against the Ducks, going through the remaining four regular season games and into the post-season, he's the guy: You've won 39 games for us so far, Quickie, now you're going to be in goal when we clinch a playoff spot and you're going to be there when the playoffs start and you're going to take us as far as we can go.
That quest starts tonight. The Kings magic number to clinch a playoff spot is four points. They can collect half of them with a win against the Ducks.
And make no mistake: All eyes will be on the refreshed, revitalized and refocused man in the nets for the Kings.