The Los Angeles Kings were thought to be sacrificing goaltending depth when they dealt Jonathan Bernier to Toronto in June. But in reality, the move might have only made them even stronger in goal.
Both goaltenders will face their former clubs for the first time Wednesday night when Ben Scrivens starts for Los Angeles against Bernier and the host Maple Leafs.
Already rock solid with top goalie Jonathan Quick, Bernier provided quality backup play for the Kings, posting a 1.66 goals-against average in 12 starts last season. Los Angeles opted to try to find some value in exchange for Bernier and his expiring contract, sending him to Toronto in exchange for Scrivens, forward Matt Frattin, and a future second-round pick.
While Scrivens posted a pedestrian 2.69 goals-against average in 2012-13, he's recorded a 1.56 mark this season for the Kings (20-7-4) compared to the 2.49 Bernier has posted for the Maple Leafs (16-12-3).
Scrivens' .943 save percentage leads the NHL while his three shutouts are tied for the most in the league, and he's proven particularly reliable as Quick has been sidelined since Nov. 12 with a strained groin. Scrivens has been even better during Quick's absence with a 1.47 GAA in 10 starts while the Kings are 9-1-3.
Rookie Martin Jones has also been impressive with Quick sidelined, recording his second straight shutout Tuesday as he stopped 31 shots in Los Angeles' 6-0 win at Montreal.
Bernier, who has a received a majority of the starts for the Maple Leafs after serving as a backup for five seasons in Los Angeles, will be looking to bounce back from a 5-2 home loss to Boston on Sunday.
"I have great friends over there but at the same time that was the chance I was waiting for and I'm very happy playing for the Leafs," Bernier said. "We have a great group of guys here and it's a lot of fun."
He might not hold a strong chance at knocking off his former club Wednesday if his teammates can't improve on the penalty kill. The Maple Leafs allowed two power-play goals on three opportunities in Sunday's loss and have surrendered 13 on 34 chances (38.2 percent) while dropping six of eight. Opponents scored on 17.0 percent of their chances in the team's previous 23 contests.
Toronto could start by simply committing fewer penalties, as its minus-25 power-play opportunity differential is the worst in the league.
"We talk about the type of penalties that you take and where they are happening on the ice," coach Randy Carlyle said. " ...The ones that are 200 feet from the net, we would deem sometimes the lazy side of it. Those are unacceptable."
Carlyle will be without captain Dion Phaneuf as he serves the first of a two-game suspension for a hit from behind on Boston's Kevan Miller. The Maple Leafs could see the return of left wing Joffrey Lupul, who ranks fifth on the team with 15 points despite missing the last seven games with a groin injury.
The Kings and their slumping power play looked like a potential good match for Toronto to clean things up with Los Angeles going scoreless on 30 power plays in eight games prior to Tuesday's victory. However, they were 1 for 3 while posting their second-highest goal total of the season.
A different player accounted for each goal in the team's fourth straight win, though Anze Kopitar credited Jones for his 31 stops.
"He came up big for us," Kopitar said. "That game could have gone the complete opposite way."
Toronto has lost three straight and five of six at home in this series.