( Photo Credit: NHL.com )
By: Mark Allred | Follow Me On Twitter @BlackAndGold277
The 2019-20 American Hockey League regular season didn’t exactly get off on the right foot for Providence Bruins goaltender Dan Vladar in his second full season with the top minor-pro affiliate of the National Hockey Leagues Boston Bruins. After starting the campaign with a 1-1-0 record, a 2.99 goals-against-average, and .888 save percentage things would progressively get worse in his third appearance of the year.
On October 16th, 2019, the Providence club was in Laval, Quebec to play in game one of a four-game road trip against the host Laval Rocket the minor-pro affiliate of the Montreal Canadiens. Veteran netminder Max Lagace got the start this night giving up four goals in the first period. To start the second frame, Providence Head Coach Jay Leach opted to take the struggling Lagace out of the game in favor of the fresh Vladar on the bench in hopes of an offensive spark. Netminder Vladar would go onto make eight saves in the second period but to end the middle frame the former 2015 third-round selection would need relief himself. Vladar went down with a lower-body injury and would need help off the ice from fellow teammates and Providence trainer prompting the AHL Bruins to back to Lagace to finish the game.
Further medical evaluations concluded that Vladar suffered a high ankle sprain and was listed as week-to-week. Dan would spend a better part of six weeks on the shelf recovering from his injury but used the downtime to his advantage working with training staff along with longtime Boston Bruins goaltending Coach Bob Essensa and assistant Mike Dunham who’s entering his third season with the B’s franchise.
( Photo Credit: Alan Sullivan Photography )
The Athletic Bruins beat writer Joe McDonald spent a day in Providence on December 15th, 2019, and unveiled some interesting information when he had the chance to interview Vladar. In the article from McDonald, aforementioned goalie coaches Essensa and Dunham spent a great deal of time with the 22-year-old as he recovered watching countless hours of video fine-tuning the netminders game ultimately finding that the Czech Republic native was too active in the crease and needed to minimize his movements to be better prepared. All quotes below from McDonald’s December 16th “Down On Th Farm” article can be found HERE or click the hyperlinked quotes below to direct you to the originator.
“I don’t think I had the greatest camp, so it was something I needed to work on,” Vladar said. “I felt good physically, but the pucks weren’t hitting me and I wasn’t playing the way I wanted. (Spending time with Dunham) helped and so far it’s working really well. A lot of pucks can hit me and that’s what I’m trying to do more and more, and I feel comfortable every single game.”
On November 27th, 2019, The Boston Bruins sent Vladar to the organization’s “AA” minor-pro affiliate the Atlanta Gladiators for a conditioning stint to test his return to professional hockey from an injury that commonly takes a while especially when it comes to goaltenders. Dan got the victory over the visiting Norfolk Admirals giving up two goals in a 4-2 Atlanta win. That was apparently enough for the Providence Bruins staff to see as the AHL club recalled Vladar to join them on the road in Charlotte, North Carolina to finish up a short three-game road trip against the Charlotte Checkers.
Dan was spectacular in his return stopping all 36 Checkers shots for his first shutout of the season and a game that would start a tremendous return with all accolades gravitating back to the tutelage and wisdom of Essensa and Dunham. Vladar would need just three more games to earn his second shutout of the season when he blanked cross border and Atlantic Division rival Springfield Thunderbirds in a 5-0 victory stopping all 42 shots he faced. Although the 6′-5″ 185-pound netminder looks to be completely healthy, he had this to say to McDonald after the game at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center in Providence, Rhode Island below.
“I felt great,” Vladar said. “It’s always easier for a goalie when you face that many shots. I felt really good. It was one of those nights where I saw the puck really well and felt like everything was hitting me. It’s a long season though, it’s nice, but I’m not getting too high from it.”
“To be honest, I can still feel it a little bit,” Vladar said of his ankle. “I’m doing treatment every day and (trainers) are keeping an eye on it.”
Since Vladar’s return from injury at the beginning of December, the second-highest ranked goaltender in his draft year (European Netminders Only) of 2015, has posted a record of 3-2-0 and compiled impressive 0.99 GAA, and .954 Save% numbers in that timeframe. His overall record for this season is still a respectable 4-3-1 record with a 1.49 GAA and .945 Save%. Dan’s AHL career numbers of 23-18-6, a 2.48 GAA, a .911 Save% along with five career No-No tells me he’s certainly stepped up a level in maturity as he continues to develop and from this small sample size since his return from the said high ankle sprain, I’d expect him to have a stellar season in the remaining games working alongside Max Lagace.
( Photo Credit: Gregory Vasil / Getty Images )
Lagace who’s contributed his own stellar play in his first season with the Boston Bruins organization since signing a one-year, two-way free-agent contract in the early month of July 2019, has been a solid mentor for the younger members of the crease with of course Vladar being around along with appearances from Kyle Keyser and Sean Bonar who was up from Atlanta lightening the workload with so many injuries. While the Boston Bruins don’t exactly look like gangbusters when talking about ranking the NHL’s best goaltending depths, its good to know that the organization will be in good hands with Essensa and Dunham at the helm to offer advice with the proper tools for the continued development of future netminders.
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