Jonathan Bernier started against the St. Louis Blues as Kings coach Darryl Sutter went with his backup rather than Jonathan Quick, the Conn Smythe Trophy winner as the MVP of the playoffs last spring. Bernier has been the sharper of the two this season, going 5-1-0 with a 1.53 goals-against average before Tuesday’s game against the Blues. Quick was 6-6-2 with a 2.53 goals-against average.
Kings coach Darryl Sutter wouldn’t reveal his starting goalie for Saturday’s game against the Vancouver Canucks. He did say after Friday’s practice that the competition between Jonathan Bernier and Jonathan Quick was good for both of them and for the team. Bernier started in Wednesday’s victory over the Detroit Red Wings. Quick started in Monday’s win over the Ducks. Bernier is 4-1-0 with a 1.64 goals-against average and a .931 save percentage. Quick is 6-5-2 with a 2.42 goals-against average and a .906 save percentage. So, who starts Saturday against the Canucks?
Come for the song, as Sutter likes to tell reporters who ask about his starting goalie, meaning they’ll know after the national anthem is played.
Whatever momentum the Kings gained from their come-from-behind victory Monday over the Ducks seemed to end when they took the ice to face the Red Wings on Wednesday night at Staples Center. Dustin Penner took a tripping penalty only 2:21 into the game. Rob Scuderi then went for tripping at 6:56.
The easy thing for the Kings would be to coast through Wednesday night’s game against the Calgary Flames, their third contest in four nights, and focus on the 13 dates at Staples Center in their next 16 games. But they can’t afford to throw away any points at this point in the season. The Kings are 6-6-2 and 12th in the Western Conference standings. They trail the conference-leading Chicago Blackhawks by 15 points and the Pacific Division-leading Ducks by 11. The Flames are 5-6-3 and 14th in the West. It wasn’t immediately clear after the Kings’ 3-2 victory Tuesday over the Edmonton Oilers whether Jonathan Quick would start his third in a row on Wednesday against Calgary. Or whether Jonathan Bernier would take his place. Both have played well recently.
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Jonathan Bernier couldn’t remember the last time he started three consecutive games.
“Probably ‘Manch,’” the Kings’ backup goaltender said after Saturday’s practice, using the players’ accepted shorthand for the Manchester (N.H.) Monarchs of the American Hockey League, where he toiled in the minor leagues from 2007-08 to 2009-10.
Kings coach Darryl Sutter blamed himself and his coaching staff for neglecting goaltenders Jonathan Quick and Jonathan Bernier during practice earlier this season. He said he was determined to pay more attention to them during workouts this past week, after replacing Quick with backup Bernier for wins Monday over the St. Louis Blues and Friday over the Columbus Blue Jackets.
The Kings and Coyotes played six times last season. Three of the games were decided by one goal; two were decided by two goals; and the other time the Kings decided not to play defense and lost 6-3.
True to their nature –even in the preseason, with rosters full of players who will spend this season in the AHL, ECHL or Canadian junior leagues –the Kings and Coyotes played a pair of one-goal games Thursday. The Coyotes squad that hosted the Kings in Glendale, Arizona, lost 3-2. The Coyotes squad that played in Anaheim a day earlier visited Staples Center and pulled out a 2-1 shootout win.
In Glendale [game summary | event summary], Dustin Penner scored with 49 seconds left in regulation to break a 2-2 tie. Tyler Toffoli had a goal and an assist, Trevor Lewis had three assists, and Ethan Moreau scored in the first period –chronologically, the Kings’ first goal of the preseason.
Jonathan Bernier started and saved 18 of 19 shots in two periods. Jeff Zatkoff got the third period and stopped 8 of 9.
At Staples Center, the vantage point of the press box offered a few more insights:
Jonathan Bernier’s first experience in the World Championships came to an abrupt end Thursday, when he allowed goals by Alexei Kaigorodov and Ilya Kovalchuk in the final 11 minutes of Team Canada’s 2-1 loss to Russia.
Russia will play FInland in the semifinals, while Canada is eliminated. Russia previously beat Canada for the World Championship gold medal in 2008 and 2009.
Bernier made 18 saves. According to IIHF.com:
The winning goal came when Alexander Radulov swung in behind the Canadian net and spotted Kovalchuk in the slot. The quick shot beat Jonathan Bernier between the pads as he slid across the crease. Bernier had been excellent all night, although Canada held a wide margin in shots, 37-20.
Bernier finished the tournament with a 2-1 record, 2.01 goals-against average, and .917 save percentage in three games.
Jonathan Bernier engaged in his first duel with Erik Ersberg since the most recent Kings training camp. Monday’s duel was far more entertaining.
Bernier made 23 saves in Canada’s 3-2 win over Sweden in Kosice, Slovakia on Monday. Erbserg battled well in a game in which Sweden was outshot 43-25, making 40 saves. The teams were tied 2-2 when Rick Nash deflected a Brent Burns shot past Ersberg with Canada on the power play at 12:31 of the third period.
Both teams get to keep playing, and could meet again in the finals. Canada will play Russia in the single-elimination quarterfinals on Thursday. Sweden plays Germany on Wednesday.
Earlier Monday, Jack Johnson and Team USA lost a relatively inconsequential 5-3 game to Swizterland. Johnson played a scoreless 23:49 (leading the U.S. in time on ice) and finished a minus-3.
The U.S. plays the Czech Republic on Wednesday in the quarterfinals. The winner of that game meets the winner of Germany-Sweden in the semifinals.
Jonathan Bernier’s last game before Saturday was an April 4 relief appearance in the Kings’ 6-1 loss to the Sharks in San Jose.
His thoughts, as told to IIHF.com, following Team Canada’s 3-2 win over Norway were understandable: “I was excited,” said Bernier, “because I haven’t played for about a month, so for me the big thing was to get that first shot on goal and get used to the bigger ice surface.”
Bernier finished with 25 saves, allowing both Norway goals in the final 10 minutes after Jason Spezza, John Tavares and James Neal spotted Canada a 3-0 lead.
James Reimer, who had started every game for Canada at the tournament prior to Saturday, served as the backup to Bernier rather than play on back-to-back days.
With the win, Canada clinched one of eight spots in the quarterfinal round.
Jack Johnson and Team USA breathed more life into their quarterfinal aspirations Saturday, while Michal Handzus and Team Slovakia met a disappointing fate.