Pressure as in opposing skaters taking advantage of underdeveloped defensemen, peppering shot attempt after shot attempt after shot attempt.
Take the April 24 start against the Dallas Stars, for example. At the 11:55 mark of the second period, the Stars held a 36-3 advantage on shots on goal.
But there was Bernier proving once again, for the second straight season, the 33-year-old was easily the team’s 2020-21 MVP.
Despite suffering a 2-1 overtime setback to the shooting Stars, Bernier finished the career-best effort with 50 saves.
Take your pick.
Playing in the final season of a 3-year, $9 million deal, Bernier has not only proven to be the team’s most valuable performer but also its most valued.
Red Wings Asset
An unrestricted free agent this offseason, Bernier’s camp will pursue opportunities throughout the NHL landscape. He already said he is targeting a return engagement with the Red Wings, rebuilding be damned.
“My family and I really like it here,” Bernier told MLive.com. “I feel comfortable at the rink, on the ice, so it would be my No. 1 choice. I definitely would like to stay here.”
“I lived (a rebuild) in Toronto and the one thing I regret is going through the pain and not being there when they’re better. That’s one of the reasons why I want to stay here.”
– UFA Goalie Jonathan Bernier
Over the past two seasons, Bernier has posted a 24-33-4 record with a 2.96 goals-against average (GAA) and a .909 save percentage.
Considering who he had skating before him earlier this season when COVID-19 ravaged the Red Wings’ roster and for most of an overmatched 2019-20 campaign, those two-year totals could be considered gaudy.
Despite missing nearly five weeks of the pandemic-shortened NHL season and sharing duties with Thomas Greiss over the final two months of this season, Bernier posted a 9-11-0-1 mark with a 2.99 GAA and .914 save percentage.
Learning From Past
Bernier made the mistake once before during his 13-year career.
In 2013, Bernier joined the rebuilding Toronto Maple Leafs, remained with the franchise for three seasons, but departed before they added the last links into becoming Stanley Cup contenders.
“It kind of got to me in Toronto when we were going through the rebuild and lost a lot and all the pressure you put on yourself to win games,” Bernier said. “I think I grew from that point on, and I brought that experience here.”
Bernier does not intend to repeat the mistake.
“I lived (a rebuild) in Toronto and the one thing I regret is going through the pain and not being there when they’re better,” he said. “That’s one of the reasons why I want to stay here. I finally see we’re getting better. We got some great, young guys. I can see we’re headed in the right direction, so I’d like to see the process towards the end.”
While he likely will not sign his next contract until after the July 21 NHL Expansion Draft, Bernier said he has an interest in coming back and cashing in on what he’s already invested into the franchise.
“I’m excited to see what next year brings,” he said.
Bernier is looking to face a different type of pressure.