Detroit – Jonathan Bernier is giving the Red Wings a chance to win, and where this season is right now, that’s a very good thing.
Bernier continued his impressive play Tuesday night in a 4-3 victory over Montreal. The victory was only the Wings’ second in the last 10 games – both won with Bernier in net.
In fact, of the 11 victories the Wings have this season, Bernier has nine of them, Jimmy Howard the remaining two.
Howard’s ineffectiveness for much of this season has led to Bernier getting more playing time and lately, the larger share of the starts.
Coach Jeff Blashill talked last week about the importance of having a goaltender, whoever it may be, carrying a team at times.
“If you look across the league, at times when teams are going through winning stretches, they’re getting great goaltending,” Blashill said. “It gives you a lot of confidence.”
The few times the Wings have been able to stretch wins together this season, it’s been Bernier guiding the way with big games in net.
The Wings had a three-game win streak Nov. 8-12, with Bernier starting all three games. Bernier was also the starter for back-to-back wins against Winnipeg and Montreal on Dec. 12-14.
The Wings have another opportunity for a two-game win streak Friday when they host Ottawa (7:30 p.m., FSD, 97.1 FM).
“(Good goaltending) can also help your offense because when you’re getting saves back there, it allows you to play a little looser where you can create a little more offense,” Blashill said. “If you give up a chance to get one, it’s OK – if they don’t always go in.”
Bernier has a 9-12-2 record, with 3.04 goals-against average and .903 save percentage. By comparison, Howard is 2-14-1, 4.04 GAA, .884 SVS.
The ability to keep pucks in front of him, and control rebounds, has highlighted Bernier’s play.
“He’s done a good job of having pucks sticking to him,” Blashill said. “That’s a huge thing for goalies. They can help, not create rebounds, (and you) don’t tax your team as much defensively. We’ve done a better job of not giving up as many of Grade A’s (scoring opportunities); there haven’t been as many breakdowns.
“There have been in certain times, and he’s been real good. But our defensive game has been a little better and those things go hand in hand.
“He’s done a good job of stopping the ones he’s supposed to stop and making saves in big moments to ensure the win.”
Filip Zadina gave the Wings more evidence that he is progressing and becoming a dangerous offensive player by scoring the winning goal Tuesday late in the third period against Montreal.
“It was one of my best moments so far,” Zadina said.
But it was earlier in the shift, on a rather non-descript play, that made Blashill real happy, and served as a reminder that Zadina is developing all the way around as a player.
“He laid it (the puck) down the wall in that shift, instead of trying to make something out of nothing,” Blashill said. “Offensive guys want to try to make something out of nothing a lot of times. I alluded to it after the Chicago game that we have to learn to stop beating ourselves, or we’ll never be a good team, and we had a long meeting about it.
“That play was indicative of that. Take what is given. When you’re a young, talented player you tend to want to force things. Very rarely does that work out well.”
This has been a difficult season for veteran forward Frans Nielsen, who scored two of his only three goals this season during Tuesday's victory.
The offense drought has worn on Nielsen, whose ice time has been cut at times, including on the power play.
Nielsen, though, has continued to provide a fine example, said Blashill, to the young players on the roster by how Nielsen has gone about his business and maintaining his passion for the game.
"Scoring is important when you haven' t scored at all," Blashill said. "Frans for a long time has really worked and competed and he cares a ton. His game has been much better after about the first couple of weeks. He just has had no luck production-wise. So, for him to score is real important.
"And again, he's a guy that does it right as much as he possibly can. He's not perfect, he makes mistakes and it hasn't been the type of year he's wanted to have. But he's kept going. Hopefully he can have a real big second half."