The Toronto Maple Leafs' faint playoff hopes took yet another hit on Friday as starting goalie Jonathan Bernier will miss the remainder of the regular season with a knee injury, according to Chris Johnston of Rogers Sportsnet:
Jonathan Bernier has a MCL strain. Out at least three weeks.— Chris Johnston (@reporterchris) April 4, 2014
With just four games remaining in their season, the Leafs trail the Columbus Blue Jackets by one point for the final wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference. The Jackets have two games in hand, however, which puts Toronto in a very difficult position.
Things certainly look dire for the Maple Leafs, but head coach Randy Carlyle isn't dwelling on Bernier's injury, per Kevin McGran of the Toronto Star:
carlyle: We have to go forward without Bernier. #Leafs— Kevin McGran (@kevin_mcgran) April 4, 2014
Jonas Siegel of TSN Radio 1500 had more from Carlyle on his goalkeeper:
Carlyle on Bernier's injury: "You’re always provided with challenges through the course of the season and this is just another one."— Jonas Siegel (@jonasTSN1050) April 4, 2014
Carlyle says he talked to Reimer about "okay" comments the next day. "...some people here seem to think ‘okay’ is ripping a goaltender."— Jonas Siegel (@jonasTSN1050) April 4, 2014
Bernier has had his ups and downs this season, although his numbers are solid. He owns a 26-19-7 record in his first full campaign as a starter since coming over from the Los Angeles Kings. He also has a respectable goals against average of 2.68 and a save percentage of .923.
Toronto's biggest issues have come with James Reimer between the pipes. The former starting netminder has been a shell of his former self with a 3.39 goals against average and a pedestrian .908 save percentage.
Will the Leafs make the playoffs without Bernier?
With Bernier out of the fold, though, the pressure is now squarely on Reimer's shoulders to give the Leafs an opportunity to qualify for the playoffs.
The chances are grim regardless, but Reimer may very well be playing for his NHL life in these next four games.
Toronto came out of the gates on fire this season; however, the wheels have come off recently. Prior to winning their past two games, the Leafs suffered through an eight-game losing streak that essentially killed their playoff chances.
The Leafs aren't going to quit, but they need a miracle, so sitting Bernier for the rest of the season is probably a blessing in disguise so that he doesn't further aggravate his injury.
Bernier will be a key part of Toronto's success moving forward, and the Leafs need him to be healthy for next season.
Ultimately, this is a severely disappointing end to what has been a disappointing year for Leafs fans.
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