What Will Boston’s Goaltending Look Like When The NHL Returns?

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Image Credit/Angela Rowlings/MediaNews Group/Boston Herald

By: Michael DiGiorgio  |  Follow Me On Twitter @BostonDiGiorgio

The NHL announced the Return To Play plan yesterday, which included a plethora of new scenarios the NHL has never seen before.  Gary Bettman, NHL Commissioner, announced 24 teams would return, along with some exciting playoff and draft lottery scenarios.  Among these changes, the NHL has authorized the eligible playoff teams to carry 28 skaters and as many goalies as they’d prefer.

Allowing teams to carry an infinite amount of goalies seems to be reminiscent of the goalie situation in Carolina on February 22, 2020.  The Toronto Maple Leafs and Carolina Hurricanes had begun their hockey game like any other night.  However, the Hurricanes’ two rostered goaltenders were injured during the game and unable to return to the game.  David Ayers was the Carolina Hurricanes’ emergency goalie, who just so happens to be the Zamboni driver for the Toronto Maple Leafs affiliate team.  Ayers allowed two goals on 10 shots and helped Carolina to a 6-3 win.

The NHL and its fans suddenly realized carrying an extra goaltender may be a necessary change in next years’ board meetings.  Since the NHL cannot change the rules mid-season, they have allowed teams to carry as many goaltenders as they’d like heading into the upcoming playoffs.

The NHL has yet to announce the official statistics to end the 2019-2020 regular season.  David Pastrnak and Alexander Ovechkin are in line to share the Rocket Richard Trophy, awarded to the player(s) who lead the league in goals.  Just as important, Tuukka Rask and Jaroslav Halak are in line to share the William M. Jennings Trophy for allowing the fewest goals against.  Rask and Halak are locked in for the first two goalie roster spots.  How many goalies do the Bruins carry, and who sits behind The Bruins’ tandem?

The American Hockey League canceled its season on May 11, 2020, which means the talent in the Bruins’ system is waiting for an opportunity to play competitive hockey again.  The Bruins have four goaltenders in Providence, all of whom have a contract with Boston: Dan Vladar, Maxime Legace, Kyle Keyser, and Jeremy Swayman.

Jeremy Swayman had an impeccable year in the Hockey East, earning him a final spot for the Hobey Baker Award as Division I’s best collegiate hockey player. Scott Perunovich ended up taking home that award, but Swayman did win the Mike Richter Award, an award given annually to Division I’s best goaltender.  He has chosen to forgo his senior year at the University of Maine and join the Providence Bruins for the upcoming season.  It is unlikely the Bruins select him to man the bench for the upcoming playoffs, considering he doesn’t have any professional experience yet.  However, his future is bright, and Bruins fans will hear his name quite soon.

Kyle Keyser split his 2019-2020 seasons between the Providence Bruins and the East Coast Hockey League Atlanta Gladiators.  The Gladiators are an affiliate of the Boston and Providence Bruins.  The 21-year-old Florida native appeared in six games for the Providence Bruins, sporting an unfortunate 1-4-1 record and a 3.21 goals-against average and only one game in Atlanta.  Before coming to the AHL and ECHL, Keyser was a stud in the Ontario Hockey League.  He improved his goals-against and save percentage in each of his three years.  He’s been highly touted by scouts and those who follow the OHL closely.

Similar to Swayman, it is unlikely the Bruins bring Keyser up for the 2019-2020 Stanley Cup playoffs given his lack of professional experience.  This leaves the last two goalies in their system, both of whom played for the Providence Bruins in 2019-2020.

Daniel Vladar was selected 75th overall in the 2015 NHL draft out of the United States Hockey League.  The 22-year-old Czech native has since spent his time between the Providence Bruins and the Atlanta Gladiators, which is a similar path to Keyser.  Vladar took a giant leap forward this past season with the Providence Bruins.  He led the entire American Hockey Leauge in goals-against and save percentage: 1.79 and .936, respectively.  He played in seven fewer games than Legace and sported a 14-7-1 record before the canceled season announcement.  When Tuukka injured himself this season, Vladar was the first goalie to be pulled up on an emergency basis.  He didn’t play an NHL game yet, but the call up shows the Bruins are comfortable with his ability to perform.  He would almost certainly be given the third goalie spot for the upcoming playoffs.  A little added bonus to Vladar is his impending contract negotiations this off-season.  He is entering this off-season as a restricted free agent.  If he received any playoff time (god forbid both Rask and Halak go down), he would be playing to show the Bruins he is capable of handling a more significant load.

Maxime Legace signed a 1-year, $700K deal last off-season with Boston.  He spent the previous six years between the Dallas Stars and the Vegas Golden Knights, only appearing in 17 NHL games for the Knights.  Don Sweeney, General Manager of the Boston Bruins, seemed to sign Legace as a filler while Keyser and Swayman play another year in their respective leagues.  Legace appeared in 33 games for the Bruins affiliate, ending the year with a 22-7-3 record as well as 2.37 goals-against average and a .919 save percentage.  Legace has NHL experience and is a likely option for the Bruins to carry in the event they want to carry four goalies on their roster.

The Bruins have a tough road to the Stanley Cup this year, given the new playoff structure.  Rask will be leaned on to replicate a similar performance to last year’s playoff.  If Halak is needed, he can hopefully replicate his regular-season performance as well.  If in the unfortunate event neither can play, the Bruins will have possibly two formidable backups ready to step in and further their professional careers.

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