( Above Photo Credit: Bridgeport Soundtigers)
By: Thomas Nyström Follow Me On Twitter @nahstrom
The ups and downs of professional hockey can sometimes be destructive to a developing player. Particularly so for a goaltender, a position that either takes the blame or praise for the results on any given night. The sixty-minute spotlight comes with an undeniable amount of pressure, more-so than anyone outside of the game could truly quantify.
Providence’s 25 year old netminder, Zane McIntyre’s professional career started during the 2015-2016 season where he played 31 games for Providence going 14-8-7 with an .898 save percentage, and one playoff appearance where he allowed 4 goals before being pulled at the end of two periods. Expectations had been higher due to his three years with the University of North Dakota where he amassed a 58-24-9 record with an .925 save percentage for his college career. McIntyre rebounded in his second professional year (2016/2017) winning 21 games in 31 appearances and a stingy .203 GAA. McIntyre additionally played another 933 minutes of playoff hockey to close out the season going in his appearances to the tune of going 8-7 with a .906 save percentage. While these numbers improved from year one to year two, McIntyre’s prospect status was hampered by what transpired during his ‘cup of tea’ in Boston when he was called upon. In 8 games he posted an 0-4-1 record and just a hair below a 4.00 GAA.
Now in his third professional season, calling Zane McIntyre a ‘prospect’ can be taken with a grain of salt. Have we seen the best out of him already? That’s perhaps an unfair question to ask, but one he quite possibly has asked himself this year. Thus far for the 2017-2018 P-Bruins, Zane has played nearly 1600 minutes in 27 games and has won just 13 of them, with his .903 save percentage being bested by Jordan Binnington whose on loan from St. Louis.
But let’s look at his last few games: last week McIntyre was perfect in his two starts stopping every last one of the 55 shots sent his way. This was Zane’s first time in his professional career where he put together back-to-back shutouts. A stat line deemed worthy of Player of the Week honors for the AHL. Then his start on Wednesday he allowed 2 goals in a losing effort to Lehigh Valley on the road but made a number of big saves to hold the comeback within reach.
Zane McIntyre may not be considered an ‘elite prospect’ at this point (if technically a prospect at all), and perhaps may be losing his place in the hierarchy of Boston goaltenders. Many fans aren’t quite comfortable with the idea of Zane stepping in as Tuukka Rask’s backup next season, let alone if an injury should arise this season with Boston riding one of their greatest hot streaks in franchise history. Current backup, Anton Khudobin, is playing the roll exceptionally and will be an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season. If Khudobin looks for more money than the front office is looking to spend, does this force McIntyre into a roll he may not be ready for? One would hope not. Two scenarios: 1. Khudobin’s asking price is reasonable and the Bruins resign him for another year. The second, and perhaps the best case scenario from an organizational standpoint: McIntyre stays hot past the all-star break and into the AHL post-season. That would just be another chapter in the spoil of riches that has become Boston’s narrative this season, but it’s not out of the realm of possibility.
Boston fans can debate this for months to come, but it’s completely up to Zane McIntyre to decide.
Thomas Nyström, Contributor.
Follow me on Twitter @nahstrom