Hockey Headlines

Saturday, 28 November 2015

Bernier In Reimer's Situation

Well, it was another night in the blue paint for Jonathan Bernier, and it was another night of struggles for the once highly-prized goaltender as the Capitals downed the Maple Leafs by a 4-2 score. Two goals of the weaker variety marred another night for Bernier between the pipes, and the crowd at the Air Canada Centre began mock-cheering for the netminder when he made a save. It should be noted, though, that Bernier is almost in the exact same place James Reimer was in last season - no confidence, and no one has faith in him. They persevered with Reimer, and Reimer has been the most consistent goalie in the Leafs' camp to date. So what do they do with Bernier?

The first thing that Bernier needs is a game against a team where he can build his confidence. While it pains me to say this, the upcoming schedule for the Maple Leafs has no "easy" games on it, so he's going to have to jump in with both feet and be ready to play. Edmonton is a good start on Monday, but the Leafs may want to consider the Jets who dropped another game to the Colorado Avalanche tonight. In either case, both teams will put pucks on net. Bernier needs to stop a few to get his rhythm back.

With the Leafs going on the road, Bernier will need to have his head in the right place. Giving up a weak goal on the road will only add to the catcalls and mocking that he received at home, so Bernier needs to be ready to go from the start. If I'm Mike Babcock, I take four players and simply pepper him with shot after shot after shot for five minutes straight in the warm-up. Get him sliding and finding positions and squaring up so he's ready to go once the game starts.

Honestly, though, the goal below is mostly a mental issue.
Bernier did two things wrong on this play: he didn't close the top of his pads to cover the five-hole and he didn't put his stick in front of his pads. That's not a case of not knowing how to play the position or not having the skills needed to be successful. That's a clear indication that his head isn't 100% in the game at that very moment.

Bernier has stopped a dump-in fired directly at him hundreds of times in his career, and we have yet to see him show up repeatedly on highlight shows for being unable to stop the 100-foot shot. Right now, he's fragile mentally and lacks any confidence in himself and his skills, and he needs a solid game to regain some of that confidence.

The late, great Yogi Berra said, "Baseball is ninety percent mental and the other half is physical." For Jonathan Bernier, the same could be said about goaltending in place of baseball because, right now, he's fighting himself on some of these saves that should be routine. No one he plays against will help him out by floating shots at him all game, so he needs to get his mental game back on-track. Once he does, his goaltending will improve drastically once more.

It all starts with being mentally ready to play the game. If his head is right, Bernier's confidence in himself will start to come back, and he'll look like the goaltender everyone expects him to be.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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