The first installment of the Los Angeles – Anaheim rivalry this season brings to mind the season opener in 2007-08, when the two Southern California rivals opened their campaigns in London, England as part of the NHL Premiere and the Kings faced the Ducks for the first time after they had won their Stanley Cup.
In that game, Jonathan Bernier threw a wrench into the Ducks’ plans to defend their title, backstopping the Kings to a 4-1 victory as a 19-year old in his NHL debut. He earned the game’s second star by stopping 26 of 27 shots and lost his shutout bid with 6:51 to play.
Bernier was returned after four games to the QMJHL’s Lewiston MAINEiacs in 2007, but the appearance still resonates with the goaltender who would go on later that season to win a gold medal with Team Canada at the 2008 World Junior Championships.
Though he’s not expected to start tonight, Bernier spoke of his NHL debut and the Los Angeles – Anaheim rivalry.
Jonathan Bernier, on making his NHL debut against a team coming off a Cup title:
“Obviously it was a special moment for me. I think it was a little different because it was overseas, and I think that the defending champs didn’t get their rings. You know the ring at the first game and stuff like that? It was just a different atmosphere. But definitely getting my debut over there against the defending champs, plus winning that game was pretty special.”
Bernier, on whether he was thinking much about facing a Cup-winning team in his debut:
“No, I was able to block it out and just be in the zone. I was kind of lucky that summer, because Team Canada did the Super Series, so my game was already at a high level, so when I got to camp, I was really in great shape. It just carried on until that game, and then Dean made the decision to send me back down. But I felt really good, especially in training camp and going into that season.”
Bernier, on the shifting dynamics of the rivalry, now that both teams have won a Cup:
“There’s always a good little challenge every game we play against them. We’re so close from each other. I don’t know. I guess we’ll see tonight if it changes.”
Bernier, on whether playing in the Memorial Cup prepared him for his NHL debut:
“Obviously. When you win your [league’s] championship, it was pretty awesome, and then we went to the [Memorial] Cup with the best players in Canada. So that probably helped me out in dealing with pressures. Those kind of tournaments with Team Canada or winning a championship – all those things help you grow as a player, as a man. So it definitely helped me for sure.”