Toronto Maple Leafs goaltender Jonathan Bernier, on conditioning assignment with the AHL Toronto Marlies, appears to be well conditioned following a third straight shutout Friday evening. In total, he has stopped all 70 shots he has faced in 179:27 of action with the Marlies.
Bernier's NHL struggles to start the season have been well documented. In nine appearances with the Leafs in 2015-16, the 27-year-old goaltender has a record of 0-8-1 with a 3.28 goals-against average and .888 save percentage.
In early November, Bernier was placed on injured reserve due to a lower body injury. After allowing eight goals on 53 shots in two starts in the latter half of last month, the Laval, Que. native found himself bumped to third on Toronto's goaltending depth chart, at least temporarily, by James Reimer and prospect Garret Sparks. On Dec. 2, Bernier was assigned to the Marlies for conditioning purposes, expected to remain with the AHL club for 10 days to play four of a possible six games during that span.
Through three starts on the assignment, the only way Bernier could have been better is if he chipped in offensively. Friday, Dec. 4, he made 22 saves in a 4-0 road win over the Rochester Americans. Two nights later, he stopped all 21 shots he faced in a 9-0 Marlies home rout of the Manitoba Moose. Last night, he backstopped the AHL club to a 2-0 road victory over the Utica Comets, making 27 saves.
It should come as no surprise that Bernier has regained puck-stopping success on this assignment. An established No. 1 goaltender with 184 NHL games to his credit, when Bernier last played in the AHL six seasons ago, he was a first-team all-star and was named the league's best goaltender. That said, three straight shutouts should exceed even the loftiest of expectations for a guy just trying to find his game.
If Bernier's AHL assignment continues as scheduled, he could go for a fourth consecutive goose egg tonight as Toronto visits the Syracuse Crunch at 7 p.m.