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Chicago Blackhawks

What happens when you leave your goalie on the shelf. Blue Jackets 3, Blackhawks 2

Jonathan Toews/photo by Sarah Avampato

Imagine you’re a bona-fide AHL starter, led your team to a Calder Cup. You’re ready to prove yourself as an NHL goalie, but you’re stuck as number three on your team’s goalie depth chart, and the two guys ahead of you aren’t going anywhere.

Only, you need to pass through waivers to get back down to the AHL. And teams need goalies with potential.

So you’re claimed, and you head to a new team… a new team that already has two goalies. A new team that doesn’t want to waive you to send you to the AHL, because they’re sure someone else will claim you.

So you sit as a third-string goalie for two seasons, rarely playing, and when you do get to play, it’s behind a team that doesn’t help you out that much.

You are JF Berube, and your career’s a mess.

Berube was a touted prospect in the Kings system, stuck behind Jonathan Quick and Martin Jones. He worked with some of the best goalie coaches in the league and transformed into an AHL all-star. The Kings took a gamble on waiving him and lost, with the Islanders picking up Berube.

And here’s where the troubles started.

Jaroslav Halak, the Islanders’ main starting goalie, was injured in the 2015-16 preseason and needed time to recover. The Islanders had a home-and-home to start their season, and without another NHL quality goalie in their system, they needed some help.

Enter waivers. Enter JF Berube.

Berube played exactly one game — the home opener in that back-to-back — and then nothing. Thomas Greiss took over as temporary starter, and Halak was back in time for the next back-to-back the Islanders played.

The Islanders would have had to waive Berube again to get him to the AHL, so they kept him. For two seasons! Two seasons, Berube sat behind Halak and Greiss, getting limited game time, because the Islanders wanted to play goalie roulette.

In two seasons, Berube played in 21 games, starting 13 of them. His record — 6-4-3, 3.11 GAA, 0.900 Sv% — is meh. His confidence in net is probably pretty meh.

And now he’s here.

This was technically supposed to be a recap of the Blackhawks/Blue Jackets preseason game. But I can’t watch Berube play without wondering what he’d be had the Islanders not chosen to keep him as their third string goalie for two seasons before losing him in the expansion draft to Vegas (who subsequently chose not to sign him). Maybe he never would have been more than an AHL starter, but having watched him when he played for the Manchester Monarchs, the tools certainly looked to be there to position him at least as a capable NHL backup.

He’ll have a chance to restart his career with this organization, only after a poor showing against Columbus, where he made 18 saves on 21 shots, he’s probably going to be doing it from Rockford, where he’ll likely platoon with Jeff Glass.

If no one claims him off of waivers, that is.

The Blackhawks dominated their game against the Blue Jackets, putting an unreal 54 shots on goal. Joonas Korpisalo, who couldn’t seem to stop anything the last time these teams met, turned into someone who looked like he could be a Vezina winner this time around.

All three goals against for Berube were ones that he probably should have been able to stop. The first came off of an Alex DeBrincat turnover; goal scorer Ryan Murray’s shot took a weird bounce off of Berube and into the net. Lukas Sedlak scored the Blue Jackets’ second goal, collecting a loose puck behind the net and banking it in off of Berube, who hadn’t quite gotten sealed to the post yet. The third goal came just around 30 seconds later, and may have changed directions a bit thanks to Brent Seabrook’s stick (not quite enough to make it Seabrook’s first own goal of the season, though), but still, Berube let it squeak underneath him. Not pretty.

Artem Anisimov and Jonathan Toews both scored for the Blackhawks; Toews’ goal came on sustained pressure during a late power play with the goalie pulled as he collected a big rebound from Patrick Sharp’s shot. The Blackhawks had great momentum and pressure towards the end of the game, but Korpisalo turning into the second coming of Patrick Roy put the kibosh on that.

The Blackhawks made two roster cuts after this game, sending Alexandre Fortin and Viktor Svedberg to Rockford. Alex DeBrincat looks to already be hitting the Quenneville Blender and will probably be playing on the third line in the next pre-season game. (All things considered, Quenneville’s response to DeBrincat’s turnover was relatively mild, of the “learn from your mistakes” variety.)

This game didn’t reveal much that we didn’t already know about the squad that this team has. More cuts are imminent after their next few games, and the things the most in flux — the bottom three, half of the defense — will become more clear.

The Blackhawks take on the Bruins in Boston tonight with a fairly young lineup, including lots of guys who are fighting for those last few spots on the roster.

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