Jonathan Bernier seems to love playing against the Nashville Predators.
He entered Thursday night with a 7-1-1 career record against the Predators having faced them several times as a member of the Los Angeles Kings in the past. Bernier improved that record to 8-1-1, with a 1.67 GAA and .941 save percentage, courtesy of another outstanding effort on Thursday night, leading the Toronto Maple Leafs to a 4-0 shutout victory in Nashville.
“The main focus is to win, and our focus tonight was to come here and make sure that we get the two points that we lost at home. We want to build a character that we’re a good team on a back-to-back and if you lose, you obviously have to come out and win the next game. I think we did a pretty good job in the second half, and we made the simple play and it was a good road game,” Bernier said.
Nashville played well for the first half of the game. They held the Maple Leafs without a shot for the first 13:41 of the game, and got several chances in the first two periods. Bernier was just able to make some key saves and didn’t give up a whole lot of second chances.
“We made some good plays,” said Predators forward Craig Smith. “There were definitely seams that we hit. We made some good passes. We just couldn’t score.”
Bernier’s dominance over the Predators has been consistent over the past four seasons. The Predators have had trouble scoring on him, and Thursday night’s shutout performance was arguably Bernier’s best against Nashville. He was the main difference in the game for Toronto, especially in the first two periods where the Predators had out-shot the Maple Leafs by a 25-15 margin. Things have certainly been going Bernier’s way against Nashville, but the Predators don’t necessarily think he’s got their number.
“I think it’s just coincidence,” Smith said. “I think you can beat any goaltender in this league. I think we just had a tough time putting the puck in the net. Sometimes that happens. I definitely think we did a good job with getting a few chances. If we could’ve buried them, it would’ve been a different game.”
Despite going 0-for-3, the Predators’ power play looked good. They were moving the puck well and creating lots of chances. Nashville just wasn’t able to finish on those power plays, and it ultimately ended up costing them. However, the power play does look a whole lot better than it did in the first two games of the season on the road.
“We’re finding seams. We’re getting used to the guys that we’re playing with. We’re getting used to seeing the penalty kill again. I think our zone entries are getting a little better and I think we’re getting a little more shots, and it’s going to get better and better as we go,” Smith said.
With the loss, the Predators have now dropped three of the first four games of the season. There are still 78 more games to go, but the Predators are going to need some wins in the very near future to avoid digging a massive hole to start the season. They’ve played fairly well in every game so far, but they don’t have the results to show for it.
“Just keep playing well. I don’t think anybody around here needs to grip a stick. I don’t think that’s going to help anything. If we keep doing what what we’re doing, same mind set– Obviously maybe we change a few things up. Obviously tonight probably wasn’t as good as it was in the past three games, but if we keep playing the way we did in the first three games I think we’ll be just fine,” Smith said.
The Predators will host the New York Islanders on Saturday night for the third game of a five-game homestand.