This is the game Jonathan Bernier has been waiting for, ever since his first game in net. Bernier, who grew up in Laval, Quebec — less than a half-hour drive northwest of Montreal — will get a chance to play professionally in his hometown for the first time.
Bernier, born in 1988, really isn’t old enough to have seen Patrick Roy’s glory days in Montreal — and isn’t that a scary thought? — but Bernier is trying to become part of the French-Canadian goalie legacy that extends from Jacques Plante to Bernie Parent to Rogie Vachon to Martin Brodeur and others. Quebec is well-known for its goalies. It studies them and revers them, and after Tuesday’s practice, Bernier was surrounded by media and had to do two sessions, one in French and one in English.
BERNIER: “Obviously it’s going to be a great night. I can’t really put any pressure on myself. It’s just another game, and I’ve just got to focus on details and not really focus on the big picture, being in Montreal in front of my family. I’ve just got to make that a positive.”
Question: One of the (French-speaking) reporters asked you about Carey Price, and the comparison there…
BERNIER: “I told them I went through the same stuff in the American Hockey League, but I just think that because he was in Montreal, it was 10 times worse. I just said that when you come out from that low, you’re just a stronger person, a stronger goalie.”
Question: How long have you been looking forward to playing in this game?
BERNIER: “Obviously, I’ve been watching the Montreal Canadiens for a long time. When I was really young, I was hoping to play (for them). When you’re young, you try to see yourself out there. I was hoping to get drafted by Montreal when I was young, but now it’s going to be a great feeling.”
Question: How many people will you have at the game?
BERNIER: “That’s a tough question. Probably over 60, 70. I’m not paying for all the tickets. [laughs]”
Question: How much do you remind yourself to focus on the game? This is an important game for the team…
BERNIER: “That’s the thing. I don’t want to take all of the media thing on me because I’m playing in Montreal. Obviously we’re not playing as well as we want right now, and we’ve got to find a way to turn things around, and I think it’s going to be a great challenge tomorrow for us. They’re a great team. I think both of us are great teams. We just have to stick to our game plan and play the way that we’re capable of playing.”
As for coach Terry Murray, he made the call to start Bernier in Montreal, with the full understanding of the pressure involved for the goalie. Murray seemed to take something of a “man up” approach, saying that he wanted Bernier to embrace the situation and learn to respond to the pressure in situations such as this one.
MURRAY: “It’s his home (but) that’s not the main motivation. We have a road trip going on, and we’ve got four games. When you look at it, at the training camp, and you’re trying to put together a schedule for the goaltenders, this seemed to fit for me. I’ve always felt that a player coming back home, there’s always adrenaline. The family is here. There is a lot of emotion in it, and because of who he is, I believe he’s going to respond the right way.”