Jonathan Bernier quietly thriving during difficult Red Wings' season

Ted Kulfan
The Detroit News

Detroit — During a season in which there’s been little going right for the Red Wings, goaltender Jonathan Bernier has definitely been one positive.

Since gradually becoming the regular goalie around late December, Bernier has gotten the bulk of games and provided the Wings with quality work.

Red Wings goaltender Jonathan Bernier owns a 13-21-3 record, 2.92 goals-against average and .907 save percentage so far this season.

Bernier’s 13-21-3 record, 2.92 goals-against average and .907 save percentage arguably don’t provide an entirely accurate description of how well he’s played this season.

“You want to win every game and obviously we’re not,” Bernier said. “You want to be making a difference. Every game you don’t win, you look at it and try to get better and change things to be on the winning side.”

This will be the first time since the 2014-15 season in Toronto that Bernier has blown by the 40-games played mark (he’s at 43), and been the clear-cut No. 1 goalie on a team.

The increased workload since the New Year, plus confidence coach Jeff Blashill has shown in Bernier, has helped.

“I’ve been playing more since that time, and it’s probably had a big effect on my game, knowing you’re playing,” Bernier said. “We’re human and sometimes when you don’t play a lot, sometimes you’re a little more pressure on yourself to win and show that you can be the guy.

“It’s definitely not the way to approach it. But once you know it’s your net, for me, it’s easier to go out there and do my job.”

With Jimmy Howard getting the lion’s share of playing time early last season, Bernier was reduced to maybe getting one start a week or 10 days, and that seemed to adversely affect Bernier.

“I didn’t play much at all and, obviously, Howie was playing well,” said Bernier, who signed as a free agent with the Wings the summer of 2018. “After Christmas, or the New Year, I was playing more and I also started to feel more comfortable around the room and on the ice, and it made a big difference.”

Bernier’s statistics with the Wings haven’t always been a true indication of how well he’s played. He allowed eight goals to Boston in his second game with Detroit in October 2018, then had to work hard to slice those numbers down to respectability.

Likewise, this season, the Wings haven’t always made life easy for Bernier and Howard.

“There’s probably been games this season where I probably felt better than game where my stats weren’t as good,” Bernier said. “As a goalie you can look around the league, and the teams that aren’t playing the way they should in front of you, it’s kind of predictable that any goalie in this league will have a tough time (in that situation).”

No concern yet

The coronavirus has had an impact around the world, and even some sports leagues.

But it’s still business as usual around the NHL and with the Wings, daily life hasn’t been impacted, either.

“It’s kind of the normal, universal precautions you go through at this time of year, with the flu and those types of things,” Blashill said. “You try to be smart about it, washing hands all the time, making sure you’re covering your mouth when you’re coughing.

“If someone is sick, we’ve tried to have them stay at home. That hasn’t happened yet, but we’ve done that with the flu. It’s real similar, so far, as to what you’d expect at this time of year.”

Players are taking precautions, but aren’t letting the virus impact their lives.

“You just have to be careful,” forward Dylan Larkin said. “I know people enjoy a handshake, or photo, but maybe if it’s a fist bump, they’ll understand, with the seriousness and the scare out there. You do have to be cautious when you’re out there in public.

“I follow it, you know about it on the news, but I don’t live my life in fear.”

Twitter: @tkulfan