Feel The Bern: Tim Berni's Low-Key, Yet Impressive Debut For The Blue Jackets

By Dan Greene on December 7, 2022 at 10:18 am
Columbus Blue Jackets defenseman Tim Berni  looks on at the face-off circle against the Pittsburgh Penguins during the third period at PPG Paints Arena. The Penguins won 4-1.
Charles LeClaire - USA Today

Who Is Tim Berni?

The Columbus Blue Jackets dropped another game against the Pittsburgh Penguins on Tuesday night as they are now tied for the second-worst record in the NHL. So far, this season has been full of injuries and disappointing performances by the club. Though there have been a few bright spots such as the production of Sean Kuraly and Marcus Bjork.

While it is too early to tell for sure, perhaps another name we will be adding to the list of bright spots is that of Tim Berni, a defenseman out of Mannedorf, Switzerland. He made his Blue Jackets and NHL debut on Tuesday, along with the much higher profile rookie, Kirill Marchenko. Marchenko's debut was much anticipated while Berni's was mostly an afterthought.

But it was Berni who subtly stole the show.

The 22-year-old had no goals, no assists, no points, no hits, and nothing that stood out in the generic box score. 

Dig deeper, though, and you'll see that Berni was easily the best defenseman on the ice for Columbus. Of course, the sample size is small, but it's all we have to go off for now for the level-headed, cool, calm, and collected rookie. 

Berni spent 13:39 on ice in his debut, mostly paired with veteran defenseman Eric Gudbranson. Most of that time was spent in 5-on-5 play, with Berni not yet graduating to being added to a special teams line.

His total time with Gudbranson was 12:24. The Penguins did not score in the time the two were together on the ice and allowed just seven shot attempts — only three of which were registered as a shot on goal. For comparison, the duo of Andrew Peeke and Gavin Bayreuther allowed 11 shots on goal and 15 total attempts in 9:45, and the pairing of Marcus Bjork and Vladislav Gavrikov skated together for 11:34 and allowed 13 shot attempts, of which six were shots on goal. Both pairings gave up one goal. 

And while Berni wasn't on the ice for the Blue Jackets only goal of the night, the analytics make the case that Columbus' best opportunities came when the Swiss rookie was out there. The pairing with Gudbranson had an expected goals of 0.858, substantially higher than the 0.545 of Gavrikov and Bjork or the 0.226 of Peeke and Bayreuther. In fact, even when the Blue Jackets forward lines are added in, only the top line trio of Johnny Gaudreau, Boone Jenner, and Patrik Laine had a higher xGF —  0.939, partially aided by Gaudreau's first-minute snipe on a beautiful feed from Laine.

To state it again — this was just one game. But if it's any indication of what Berni can bring to the table moving forward, the Blue Jackets might have just found another diamond in the rough.