The Providence Bruins season may have ended with another first-round exit in the Calder Cup playoffs, but there’s still a lot to like moving forward. When breaking down 2018-19, it also left us with some question marks. Among the questions, the most interesting position to start breaking down is goaltender. Despite having the eighth-best goals against in the AHL, the P-Bruins netminders had an average season.
Veteran Struggled With Consistency in Providence Net
This may have been the final season in Providence for Zane McIntyre. The University of North Dakota product finished with a .898 save percentage in his fourth season in the organization. That number dropped to .855 in his two playoff appearances.
McIntyre has struggled with consistency while carrying the load in net for the P-Bruins for the last two seasons. In 2017-18, Jordan Binnington put together an All-Star performance as McIntyre’s partner in net, although it was not much of an internal competition as Binnington was on loan from the St. Louis Blues, meaning McIntyre was always likely to see the bulk of the action, typically taking two out of three games in a weekend.
In 2018-19, Binnington’s career has taken off with the Blues, while McIntyre faced his first real internal competition as Boston’s 2015 third-round pick Daniel Vladar joined the fold in Providence. It’s tough to say the competition brought out the best in either goalie this season, but McIntyre had more on the line in terms of where he’s at in his career.
At 26 years old, and with fewer than 28 games of NHL experience, McIntyre qualifies as a group six unrestricted free agent. It’s possible McIntyre has played his last game for the P-Bruins. It was a run highlighted by the 2016-17 season, when he posted a 21-6-2-2 record with a 2.03 GAA and .930 save percentage in a season that ended in the Conference Final. There have been flashes of that form over the last two seasons, but likely not enough.
Two Young Netminders Set to Return to Providence
Despite Vladar also producing a sub-.900 save percentage at .898, there’s still a lot to like about the 20-year-old. He backstopped the P-Bruins to their lone playoff win, stopping 25 of 27 shots in a 4-2 win over the Charlotte Checkers. Vladar later left warmups for the next game with an injury that would bring his season to an abrupt close.
It was a disappointing end for Vladar, but he can carry that playoff experience into next season as he’ll likely see more action than the 31 games he played in 2018-19. His large frame and athleticism make him an intriguing prospect if he can stay compact and learn to harness both.
It will be interesting to see if the keys are fully turned over to Vladar next season, possibly teaming up with another young netminder in Kyle Keyser. The organization may also seek another veteran option rather than pair a 22-year-old Vladar with the rookie Keyser. Boston will have Jaroslav Halak under contract to backup Tuukka Rask once again in 2019-20, but there may be a need for some insurance in the form of a veteran goaltender.
Keyser made his pro debut in Game 4 against Charlotte. While the 4-1 loss brought an end to the season for Providence, Keyser held his own stopping 26 of 29 shots for a team that was simply outclassed by the AHL’s best team. There will be more opportunities for Keyser, an undrafted free-agent signing by Boston, who capped off an impressive junior career this season by making the United States roster at the World Junior Championships.
Providence starting three different goaltenders in a four-game series was mostly based on the Vladar injury and Boston pulling up McIntyre as a third goalie, but the Providence net truly is still up for grabs heading into 2019-20. Whether there is a veteran presence or a young duo, there will be room for improvement in net in 2019-20.