Jonathan Bernier is officially back in the Toronto Maple Leafs' crease. Dismal performances at the NHL level all season long, resulting in no wins and a .888 save percentage, eventually saw Bernier - who is still under contract for the 2016-17 season, at a $4.15 million cap hit - demoted to the Marlies on a conditioning stint.
When you have that level of investment in a player, you'd prefer for things to go well with him. You want to do what you can to help him along.
For Bernier, that help was getting him to face off against lower-level competition. He ended up playing four games for the Marlies, posting three shutouts and a .948 save percentage (he gave up five goals to the Utica Comets in his final outing which, uh, oops).
And, as Bernier told Elliotte Friedman in this week's 30 Thoughts (#26):
"With a week off, you get away from hockey for a few days. That mental break really helps. You don’t think about it."
Considering the season he's had so far, it makes sense Bernier would need to step away for a bit - even when he was in the midst of a pretty awesome shutout streak. Too much focus can sometimes be a bad thing, after all, especially when things are going wrong.
Though of course, it's time to get back to focusing.
"The winning goal (against Utica on Sunday) was an example. I knew he was going high-blocker on me. But, he was bumped and (it went low). I just have to be more patient, and everything will be okay."
And apparently he said that with a smile on his face - something you always want to see from someone who's had a hard go of it lately, because you know they know it's going to get better.
Here's to an NHL game as good for Bernier as his first three in the AHL! And more smiles all around.