While there wasn’t much of a goaltending controversy in Los Angeles, the Kings and their fans both knew they had two number-one netminders in Jonathan Quick and Jonathan Bernier. Yet, while the former was the more accomplished of the two with the silver-and-black, the latter proved to be just as good – and after riding the bench for three-plus seasons, it was time to move on.
On June 23, 2013, the Los Angeles Kings traded Jonathan Bernier to the Toronto Maple Leafs in exchange for goaltender Ben Scrivens and forward Matt Frattin. While Bernier is still a Leaf, both Scrivens and Frattin have since been traded which encourages the argument that the Kings got the short end of the stick in said trade. While I do disagree, that is a discussion for another day.
On Thursday night, the Los Angeles Kings return home to embark on a five-game homestand, kicking things off against the Toronto Maple Leafs. While there are already some good storylines entering Thursday’s matchup including the Kings trying to match a franchise-record winning-streak and Darryl Sutter on the verge of earning his 500th-career win behind the bench, the contest also marks the return of one Jonathan Bernier.
While the Kings and Leafs met in December, it was in Toronto and it was Martin Jones getting the call in the Los Angeles goal as Jonathan Quick was still sidelined with a groin injury. With that, March 13 marks the first battle between the two Jonathans since last June’s trade. Actually, it marks the first battle between the netminders period.
For a couple of years, there have been two camps among Kings fans: Those who love Quick and those who love Bernier.
While I mean this with all due respect to the latter, I never understood how anyone could prefer one goaltender over a netminder who singlehandedly got his team into the playoffs, lead them to a Stanley Cup crown when no one gave them a fighting chance to even get past the first round before rebounding from back surgery to guide his team to the Western Final the following year. But there are fans who did (and some who still do) prefer Jonathan Bernier.
In 2006, new GM Dean Lombardi started his tenure in Los Angeles off on the right foot drafting Jonathan Bernier 11th overall. After opening the 2007-08 season as the Los Angeles starter, Bernier was sent back to his junior team in Lewiston, Maine while the team carousel in goal picked up where it left off a season earlier. It was during the 2007-08 campaign that Kings fans got their first look at 22-year-old Jonathan Quick. While he only played in three games for the big club that season, Quick was a workhorse that year playing in 38 games for Reading of the East Coast League before moving up to Manchester for 19 games. It was a brief stay but the next season, Quick was back in sunny Los Angeles making a name for himself as the team’s new starter.
While Jonathan Bernier did find his way back to Los Angeles full-time in 2010-11, Quick had already established himself as the number-one guy in between the pipes. But while he was never able to take over as the starter in Los Angeles, Jonathan Bernier provided great relief nonetheless. In addition, with his affable demeanor off-the-ice, fans fell in love with their No. 45, even if his on-ice role with the team was limited.
In Bernier’s defense, however, his maiden season in the media cesspool that is Toronto has been a good one. In 49 games this season, Bernier has amassed a 25-16-7 record to go along with a 2.61 goals-against average and a .925 save percentage. For those who don’t his record is as good as it should be, his average of 30.6 saves per outing indicates that Bernier has done everything he could to win more games. Here and there, he has had given up some ugly goals but so has Jonathan Quick. For that matter, so every NHL netminder. Nevertheless, the Leafs sit second in the Atlantic Division with a 35-23-8 record and much of that is thanks to the play of Bernier. So, regardless of what some hypochondriac Leafs fans will tell you, their team is in good shape – and No. 45 should be thanked immensely for that.
While his aforementioned groin injury has limited him to just 37 games this season, Jonathan Quick has nonetheless been a stalwart in the Los Angeles net this season. Like many of his teammates, Quick gets better as the season progresses. Of course, that’s not to suggest that he hasn’t been good this season. In his 37 games this season, Jonathan Quick has gone 21-13-2 while posting a 2.02 GAA, a .917 save percentage and four shutouts. In addition, a win over his former teammate on Monday will give him career-win 170 – one win shy of Rogie Vachon’s franchise record.
While I’d love to say how much I want to see a Kings/Leafs Stanley Cup Final, it is simply too soon to suggest such a thing. In the meantime, Thursday’s duel should prove to be almost as exhilarating. While we won’t discover who necessarily the better goaltender is, the end result of Thursday’s matchup will have one goaltender, one camp and one team leaving Staples Center with bragging rights.