The New Jersey Devils were desperate to fix the backup goalie problem. They tried to do it last season when they signed Corey Crawford to a two-year deal, but he decided it was better for him to retire from the game of hockey instead. The Devils gave Cory Schneider multiple chances to be a one-two punch with Martin Brodeur, Keith Kinkaid, and Mackenzie Blackwood, but it never seemed to click (although he had some amazing years as the starter). The Devils even signed Scott Wedgewood to be a third option, but he got claimed this season off waivers by the Arizona Coyotes.
The Devils put their money where their mouth is by signing Jonathan Bernier to a two-year deal worth a total of $9 million. He’s making more than Blackwood, who is supposed to be the young stud starter in net.
Bernier has had flashes of being really good, but it seems like forever since he last had a great performance and the coaching staff is starting to lose faith in him. Before he started the second half of a back-to-back on Friday night, the Devils started Blackwood in six of the previous seven games.
Bernier has been good when he relives Blackwood as of late. In a total of 46 minutes against the Panthers and Rangers, two teams with wicked offenses, he allowed zero goals. However, he’s allowed four or more goals in three of his last five starts. In the other two, he allowed two and three, so it’s not like he was shutting anyone out.
Bernier’s save percentage is .902. That is obviously not good. His high-danger save percentage is even worse. He’s stopping high-danger shots at a 76% clip. Only 10 goalies with at least five games played have a worse number this season. If he was just at league average, like Cal Peterson who has a .821 high-danger save percentage, that would have kept three more goals out of the net.
Bernier needs to be the fix for the Devils backup goalie problem. With Jack Hughes‘ big contract starting next season and Schneider’s $2 million on the books for the next three seasons, they can’t afford to start over again. They chose to give Bernier the contract they did, and Bernier chose to come to the Devils. It was clearly a slight overpay at the time, but it’s quickly becoming something worse if Bernier doesn’t snap out of his funk. He needs to start playing like he does when he comes into relief for Blackwood because that is when he does his best work.