The Boston Bruins had another overtime victory this preseason as they downed the Winnipeg Jets 3-2 last night. The victory, although nice, was not the most important takeaway from the game.
Coming into the night, Bruins coach Claude Julien made it clear that this was going to be Niklas Svedberg’s chance to impress the coaching staff by playing an entire game.
The 24-year-old goalie spent last year in the AHL and had enormous success. In fact, Svedberg posted a 2.17 goals against average with a 0.925 save percentage, taking home the AHL goalie of the year award. It was that success that had all eyes Svedberg in his first full start and the young goaltender did not disappoint.
Playing against a very tough home team in the Winnipeg Jets, Svedberg saved 26 of the 28 shots he faced. The Bruins goalie was impressive making some acrobatic saves, including a diving paddle stop, robbing the talented Evander Kane late in the second period. Many of Winnipeg’s shots ended up bouncing off the “spoked B” on Svedberg’s chest, as he showed the ability to take good angles against oncoming shots.
Svedberg’s performance this preseason, as well as in the AHL all of last year, should give coach Julien enough confidence to name Svedberg backup to starter Tuukka Rask. The team’s other option, journeyman Chad Johnson, has been inconsistent this preseason including giving up 3 goals on only 8 shots in his first appearance against Montreal. If the decision were based solely on performance, Svedberg would be the backup on opening night.
As with most decisions however, there are other variables that factor into the decision. How much each player counts towards the salary cap will be one of those deciding factors. If Svedberg were to make the roster, he would count $1,000,000 towards the cap, while Johnson would only carry a $600,000 cap hit. The Bruins already find themselves against the $64 million cap ceiling and the team is looking for any way to get under that mark.
Playing in Svedberg’s favor is the signing of projected superstar Malcolm Subban and his development. The Bruins undoubtedly want Subban to gain as much experience as possible, but if Svedberg is sent down to Providence, the two goalies would be forced to split time in net. Svedberg also has little to prove in the AHL with the success he had last year.
Svedberg is also a restricted free agent next year and that could come into play in the decision. If he were to be named the backup and do well against NHL competition, the Bruins could use him as trade bait to bolster their lineup before the trade deadline. The team has shown their not afraid to make in season trades if they think it will improve their chances of winning a Stanley Cup.
The Bruins have one more tune-up before the regular season and Rask is expected to get the majority of playing time in that game. So it seems that the audition for the backup role is over. After seeing both Svedberg and Johnson play this preseason, the choice is seems to be clear. When the Bruins play October 3rd in Boston, Niklas Svedberg will be on the bench as Tuukka’s backup. With his play last night, Svedberg has proven he will be a more than competent backup for the Bruins this year.