The Boston Bruins have an interesting battle that will be taking place at training camp this season, as Don Sweeney and company must decide who will back up star goaltender Tuukka Rask. The 2014 Vezina Trophy winner has been tremendous for the Bruins the last few seasons, and was really one of the main reasons that Boston even contended or a playoff spot last season, despite missing the cut.
However, the fatigued Finn was undoubtedly overworked last season, which played a big role in Boston’s demise in their final games of the regular season.
Now, as the 2015-16 season approaches, Boston has some decision-making to do. With three possible candidates to back up Rask, Boston will have to select which net-minder they believe will be the strongest and most reliable when he gets the call.
As of now, Boston’s three candidates to back up Tuukka are Malcom Subban, Jeremy Smith, and Zane McIntyre. Each of the three tendys have their ups and downs, so we’ll break them down for you:
As of now, you could make a pretty strong case if you were arguing for Smith to take the backup role behind Rask. He saw a successful season last year with the Providence Bruins, posting a 22-11-5 record, with a 2.05 save percentage and a .933 goals against average. Despite playing for five season in the AHL, the 26-year-old goaltender has never made the jump to the NHL.
This could certainly be the year for Smith, who has the numbers to make the jump, and would certainly be motivated to finally make a name for himself on hockey’s biggest stage.
Bruins re-sign goalie Jeremy Smith to a one year, two way deal for 600K. Could get a look as the backup to Tuukka
— Joe Haggerty (@HackswithHaggs) July 2, 2015
Drafted in 2012, many believed that Malcolm Subban would become Boston’s next goaltender, at least behind Rask. However, after two seasons in the AHL, the 6-foot 2-inch net-minder still has a lot to prove. Some people believe that Subban is a lock for the Bruins’ backup position next season. However, that is far from the truth.
Our own Joe Marraccino summed it up very well in an earlier piece:
He has spent the last two seasons down in Providence adapting to the professional game after spending four years with Belleville in the Ontario Hockey League. Subban’s numbers in the AHL are more pedestrian than the Bruins brass would like to see, especially last season when the 6’2 netminder was outplayed by a journeyman in Smith.
Furthermore, his first NHL start in St. Louis against the Blues was a disaster allowing three goals on just six shots in 31 minutes. It was a confidence killer for Subban.
The truth is, Subban’s numbers in the AHL were, to be kind, shakier than expected. Last season, he posted a .921 save percentage with the Baby Bruins, and was absolutely torn apart in his only NHL appearance (giving up 3 goals on 6 shots).
The future is unclear for Subban (some speculate that he may even be traded), however, a strong training camp could put him in the mix for the backup role.
Last but not least, we have University of North Dakota stand-out Zane McIntyre. To put it concisely, Zane McIntyre was an absolute beast for UND last season. The Minnesota native posted a 29-10-3 record, with a 2.05 goals against average and a .929 save percentage, en route to being named a Hobey Baker finalist. He was, without a doubt, the best goaltender in college hockey.
We’ve already heard from McIntyre, who made it clear that he wasn’t intimidated by the competition that would come with signing with Boston.
While the 22-year-old goaltender is far from the favorite for the backup role, he could certainly make things interesting if he impresses at training camp this fall.
When push comes to shove, it’s pretty hard to predict who will be in net behind Rask for the Bruins this season.
The fact of the matter is that being a backup goaltender is an extremely tough job, especially in a city like Boston, where backup goalies of years past have been phenomenal with the Bruins (think Anton Khudobin, Chad Johnson, and Niklas Svedberg). Whoever gets the call for the Bruins this fall will have a lot on their plate, and will have to perform, or else they’ll quickly be replaced by one of the remaining candidates.
Who do you think will earn the backup role? Will they be able to keep it?
Cam is a Broadcast Journalism student at the University of Maryland. He’s the Boston Bruins Beat Writer at The Hockey Writers, and is an avid college hockey fan. Find him on Twitter @CamHasbrouck!