With the 2014-15 season coming to a close, The Boston Bruins, as well as the fans, want to figure out the backup goaltender situation. With a surplus of goalies ready to play down in Providence, the question will continue to be asked and speculated about. The Bruins have three separate options in Niklas Svedberg, Malcolm Subban, and Jeremy Smith. Svedberg has been with the organization the longest and has flourished in a North American hockey setting on top of multiple seasons in Providence. Subban, drafted 24th overall in the 2012 draft, is an exciting prospect with the potential to be a top NHL goaltender in years to come. Smith, just signed prior to the season, was drafted 54th overall in the second round by the Nashville Predators in 2007.
Jeremy Smith isn't a well known name in the New England area. He was signed before the regular season and shortly after the departure of Chad Johnson, last years backup who posted excellent numbers backing up Tuukka Rask. Smith has been utilized in Providence all year, splitting games with prospect, Malcolm Subban. After being drafted by Nashville in 2007 at a very young age, Smith ended up being behind Pekka Rinne and other excellent prospects so he never had a chance to shine in Nashville. He then signed a two-way deal with Columbus before ending up here. Smith is very aggressive in the crease due to his size. He's very agile and his lateral movements are impressive but tends to get beat five-hole a lot and could use work on his timing. Although Smith and Svedberg are the same age, 25, Svedberg has been in an organization that knows how to build and produce goaltenders. Smith hasn't been so luck to stay in one spot and get the development he needs, so I see him staying in Providence to grow and hone in his fundamentals.
Svedberg has impressed since arriving in the Boston organization as an undrafted talent from Sweden. Svedberg is a new era goalie who plays the butterfly style well. In his first year of North American hockey in 2012-13, Svedberg went 37-8-2 with a 2.17 goals against average, carrying the baby B's to an AHL final. That same year, the Bruins made a run for the cup on their own before falling short in Game 6 to the Chicago Blackhawks. A lot of Providence's key players were called up during this run, preventing Svedberg from capturing a cup of his own. The following year brought a 25-15-4 record with a 2.67 goals against average, a slight decline in numbers. Don't let those numbers fool you though, as Svedberg has the talents to become a number one goaltender in the NHL.
Svedberg robs Marcus Foligno of the Buffalo Sabres, showing great patience. (via: Boston.com)
His positioning is excellent and constantly stays square to the puck, seen above. His quick lateral movements help him slide across the crease with ease, all while maintaining a good position to stop the puck. We have seen the many bright spots Svedberg brings to the table, but lately his play hasn't shown up. He did earn a win over the Detroit Red Wings, 5-3, yesterday afternoon at the Garden and began to show why he belongs with the big club. However, the Red Wings second goal scored was unacceptable. A simple shot with no screen to the five hole slipped past Svedberg and gave life to depleted Red Wings team. Claude even considered pulling the young goalie if the Red Wings were able to get within one but let the keeper finish the game, boosting his confidence. Confidence is key as goaltender, regardless of the level you play out. Sending Svedberg down on a conditioning assignment crippled what confidence he had. 21 year old Malcolm Subban was brought up to be showcased during this stint, playing in only one game in which he was pulled from. Svedberg should have been in Subban's place as the club was still battling to maintain a playoff position. A deal was never made for Subban that was on the rumor mill and the move did not help either goaltender, especially in the confidence department.
Killing the confidence of a young prospect can only hinder his development and that's what Peter Chiarelli unfortunately did to Malcolm Subban. The exciting young goaltender has played in Providence this season, putting up a 2.47 goals against average and a .922 save percentage, decent numbers in the AHL level. With rumors of him being used as trade bait, he was called up to face a top team in the St. Louis Blues. Subban allowed three goals in just four minutes in the second period of that game, the only thing fans will remember of his 2014-15 campaign with Boston. A goaltender that just arrived into our system, Subban should take time to develop in the AHL. Time and time again, the Bruins have produced young goaltenders into number one starters (i.e. Michael Hutchinson, Anton Khudobin). Subban has ample opportunity to grow and work on the basic parts of his game with Providence and should continue to learn.
We also can't forget that the team did under-preform for a decent chunk of the season. With that being said, Svedberg hasn't had much time in the crease behind Tuukka Rask and with the defense not up to par, Svedberg deserves a pass. He has spent a few years going up and down with the organization learning from the games best, and he deserves the number two job. He has the skills, the hockey intelligence, and the drive to make himself a name in the NHL.