Originally posted on Pro Sports Daily  |  Last updated 10/3/13
Behind what started out as a tired-looking team playing sloppy and almost uninspired hockey Jonathan Bernier looked as if his Maple Leafs debut was going to end up being a solo effort. There were turnovers in the first 20 minutes blown coverages and the potential for disaster against a Philadelphia Flyers team ready to roll in its home and season opener. And then the new Leaf ran through the checklist of how great goaltending can change the momentum of a game ultimately leading his team to a 3-1 victory at the Wells Fargo Center. When it was done Bernier had done his part and more to finish off a sweep of the back-to-back road games to open the season and become the NHL’s first 2-0 team. The puck-stopping poise of Bernier in his much-awaited debut was not lost on his new teammates. “We came in after the first period quite disappointed (and trailing 1-0 on a last-minute power-play goal by Brayden Schenn)” said Joffrey Lupul. “It could have easily been 3-0 but he kept us in it and we progressively played better and better as the game went on.” How many times have you heard hockey players talk about the energizing effect of superb goaltending? It surely had an effect on the Leafs finding their legs in the second period and gradually changing the flow of the game. How many times have you heard a coach refer to the man in the crease as the most important penalty-killer on the ice? Bernier faced seven Flyers power plays and was beaten only once. And how many times has Leafs coach Randy Carlyle repeated his “all we ask is for goalies to give us a chance to win” line? Bernier did that and more on Wednesday following up James Reimer’s solid effort in Montreal the previous night. “He gave us a chance. That’s all you can ask” Carlyle said of Bernier’s 31-save effort. “Some nights it takes a little more. We knew coming in here after last night and carrying that level for 60 minutes would be tough. “We needed our goaltender to keep us in the game and he did that. He battled and stopped the puck. Any of the loose pucks that were around he seemed to have the ability to scoop.” Be assured there were some big saves too perhaps none larger than the penalty shot save on former Los Angeles teammate Wayne Simmonds with three seconds remaining in the second period. Bernier waited out Simmonds expecting the backhand and then made an easy-looking pad save to keep the score tied after 40 minutes. “Those are momentum swings that can carry a team into the room and stopping the penalty shot it gave our team an extra boost” Carlyle said.
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