By Andrew Bluestein | Follow Me On Twitter @adbblue
In the Boston Bruin’s first preseason game on Sunday night, goaltender Brandon Bussi stole the show en route to a 3-0 shutout. Bussi is coming off a fantastic 2022-23 AHL campaign, which included an all-star game appearance. With already arguably having the best goaltending tandem in the NHL with Linus Ullmark and Jeremy Swayman, it appears the Bruins have yet another good young goalie in the pipeline.
The organization has been set at the position ever since Tim Thomas emerged during the 2006-07 season, and two men deserve a large amount of credit. That would be Bruins long-time goalie coach Bob Essensa and goaltending development coach Mike Dunham.
The man referred to as “Goalie Bob” has been the team’s goaltending coach since 2003 and has certainly earned that nickname. Essensa is a former NHL goalie, playing 12 career seasons for six teams. Although he never played for Boston, he’s undoubtedly had a huge impact on the organization’s success in the 21st century.
There has arguably never been a concern at the goaltending position as long as he’s been on the coaching staff, and the amount of success that Bruin’s goalies have had is hard evidence of that. Under Essensa, Bruins goalies have combined for a Calder Trophy, three Jennings Trophies, four Vezina Trophies, and a Conn Smythe Trophy.
Another thing that “Goalie Bob” does very well is getting goalies to tap into their full potential. The organization has almost always gotten strong play out of whoever the backup is, which is an underrated importance to winning hockey games. Good examples include guys like Manny Fernandez, Anton Khudobin, Chad Johnson, Jaroslav Halak, and even guys like Alex Auld, Dan Vladar, or Keith Kincaid, who were forced into the net due to injuries.
The importance of Essensa has much to do with Bruin’s goaltending development coach. Mike Dunham. Also a former NHL goalie, Dunham served as the New York Islanders goalie coach for ten seasons until 2017, when he joined the Bruins Organization. He has been a key in helping develop young goalies since he’s been with the club.
No one is ever going to bat 1.000, and there have been young, promising goalies in the past that didn’t work out, most notably former first-round pick Malcolm Subban or sixth-round pick Zane McIntyre. But Dunham and Essensa have done an outstanding job with Jeremy Swayman, Kyle Keyser, and Brandon Bussi, who have had great success with AHL affiliate Providence.
With all the combined success at the position over the years, it can’t be stated enough how valuable Essensa and Dunham are to the organization, especially when many other teams in the league have had issues in the goalie department going back multiple seasons.