This morning, I caught up with Manchester Monarchs coach Mark Morris, as part of a couple player features that will be published within the next week. Additionally, I asked Morris about the play of his team in general and, in particular, about the play of AHL goalie of the year Jonathan Bernier. The Monarchs had an excellent start to this season but were decimated by injuries and by call-ups to the Kings. They finished third in their division but upset the second-place team (Portland) in the first round and are now one win away from eliminating the first-place team (Worcester) in the second round. Bernier, who has two shutouts in nine playoff games so far, has been a big part of the Monarch’s season-long success. Here’s some thoughts from Morris and, below, a podcast done with Monarchs GM (and Kings assistant GM) Ron Hextall…
Question: You’ve had some great play by Jonathan Bernier in the playoffs so far. From your perspective, is that just a continuation of what you saw in the regular season?
MORRIS: “I think he just brings a whole calming influence to our entire team. He makes the hard saves look easy, and there’s no wasted motion in his game. As shooters come down on him, there isn’t a whole lot for them to see. How he presents himself to the shooter is a big deterrent, and he absorbs shots. There’s not too many rebounds. His confidence is brimming right now, and it certainly has carried over to our team’s success. He’s the one that gave us the opportunities, with so many first- and second-year players, to get our bearings. As soon as we got (Andrei) Loktionov and (Oscar) Moller back, and got some guys healthy, the combination of the great goaltending that we saw throughout the year and depth has really helped our stretch run.”
Question: You had so many injuries during the season. Now that you have some better stability, does this feel more like where you wanted to be throughout the year?
MORRIS: “We’re still a work in progress, believe it or not. We’re still trying to work on our chemistry. I have a list of guys who have been here. I formulated it yesterday. The count is 14 guys who aren’t here now, who have helped us get to this point. Needless to say, it’s just been crazy, and if you count (J-F) Berube and (Jordan) Nolan, there’s 16 different personalities that aren’t even in the lineup now but have contributed to how we got here. I guess it all points back to Bernier being the guy in the early going, when we were getting outshot, giving us the opportunity to stay in tight games. The handful of guys that we’ve had for the last couple years, guys like (Trevor) Lewis and (Gabe) Gauthier and (Marc-Andre) Cliche, (Drew) Bagnall, those types of guys have really carried us. And (John) Zeiler. Those guys, during critical moments, get quality minutes, and they’ve held their ground. They’ve killed a lot of penalties and endured a lot of real hectic moments to make up for a lot of inexperience. I think those guys are kind of our unsung heroes, getting us to this point.”