He'd prefer to be battling through pain for the team. In an ideal world, he'd still be sore from the last round and preparing for the next. He looks around and sees teammates who are exhausted from leaving it all on the ice and wants to join in that fight.
But when you're Jonathan Bernier, the backup goalie for the outstanding Jonathan Quick, your contributions have to come somewhere else. The first second he plays in the finals will be his first action of the postseason.
"It's like a healthy scratch in the stands. You practice hard with the guys but it doesn't feel the same," Bernier said when we chatted during the Western Conference finals. "Right now, I just try to support the guys, keep them confident. Let them score in practice. That's it. It's a different feel, obviously."
Chances are, it won't be that way next season. Quick's emergence as a Vezina Trophy candidate this season means Bernier's future is elsewhere. Quick's strong run during the playoffs has only solidified his spot as the Los Angeles Kings' No. 1 goalie, and to Bernier that's good on a lot of levels. It means his current team is having success, and it means management can feel comfortable moving him somewhere he can compete for a starting job.
"Dean [Lombardi] is going to be set more on his choice," Bernier said of Quick's success. "That's a big thing for me next season."
Long touted as the goalie of the future with the Kings, Bernier never could wrestle away a starting spot that Quick refused to surrender. But that hasn't hurt the view of Bernier in the eyes of those around the league. He has been considered a high-end prospect and he still is. Lombardi, the Kings' GM, got calls on Bernier at the trade deadline, and as soon as this postseason is over, they will begin again.
"Everybody is high on Bernier," said an NHL scout. "There's no question he's been brought along nicely by L.A. I think there's a number of teams in the NHL that need a goaltender that covet Bernier."
To read Craig Custance's full blog on Jonathan Bernier, and the three most likely destinations for him after the season, you must be an ESPN Insider.