An Unpopular Opinion: Play Jonathan Bernier
In our goaltender preview, I wrote:
If Jonathan Quick can drop his GAA under 2.10 (he was 2.24 last season) and get that SV% up to .930 (from .918), this Kings’ fan will be smiling. As for Bernier, I want the same or similar numbers although they will likely come in less games. I don’t take much Terry Murray says before the season on face value (been there and seen everything is subject to change at a whim) but if he gives Quick more rest (read: around 50 games) and Bernier gets the remainder, we will have a fresh number 1 in the playoffs and a number 1a with enough games under his belt to seamlessly fill the void if the unexpected (injuries) arises.
This followed Terry Murray’s camp comment about eliminating a goalie rotation in favor of the hot hand theory – one that advocates playing whichever goaltender plays well. Terry’s comment concerned me at the time but I shrugged it off. Here we are. The LA Kings are 5-1-1 for 11 points. Only Dallas has more points in the Western Conference with 12. We also have a 4 game win streak and the best Conference goals for /against differential at +7. Jonathan Quick has three consecutive shut outs. His save percentage is .972% (1st in the NHL), GAA is 0.81 (2nd in the NHL behind Khabibulin), he is breaking LA Kings’ records and our fans are writing folk songs about him.
In hindsight, the choice to give Quick 6 out of the last 7 starts has worked well for the team. In foresight, with a helping of history and common sense, it is a mistake to sustain this pace. It is unmanageable. Playing Quick until he burns out and then putting in Jonathan Bernier is a miscalculation Terry Murray made two seasons ago, to which he later admitted and vowed not to repeat. Hot hand or not, Bernier has to get 20 + games to keep Quick fresh & Bernier ready. The playoffs are a grind. Any overworked player at any position will not play his best when it matters most. Imagine Kopitar being regularly double shifted 2/3 of the games. With goaltenders, this is magnified.
I believe Terry Murray knows this and he won’t allow it to happen. I believe he will soon start Bernier in games and ensure his error of two seasons ago will not repeat. I believe we have two exceptional goaltenders who are both equally capable of delivering us to the promise land.