BOSTON – Niklas Svedberg came to Boston, he saw the competition, he conquered the Predators, and now he’s headed right back to down to the Providence Bruins for the foreseeable future.
The Swedish goaltender had a memorable NHL debut, making 33 stops and leading the Bruins to a 3-2 overtime victory against the Nashville Predators on Thursday night at TD Garden. He then was returned to the AHL immediately following the game. The Bruins will be moving forward with the Tuukka Rask/Chad Johnson tandem they’ve featured the first three months of the season, but its clear Svedberg isn’t out of the long range plans either at this point.
“We’re comfortable [with him],” said Claude Julien. “I didn’t see him being much different from the first until the third, but I thought in the second -- when they did throw a lot of pucks at him -- he stood tall and made some good saves.
“I liked his game tonight, he was good and he just showed us that he’s a guy we need to look at and keep an eye on. He’s going to head back to Providence [on Friday], but there’s a good chance you’re going to see him here again very soon.”
Svedberg had clearly built an impression with a strong training camp after performing as the AHL’s best goaltender last season. His debut for Boston didn’t disappoint. He was perhaps a little nervous in the first period when some rebounds were left precariously around the net, but Svedberg locked things up as the game went along.
The smooth, fluid movements and athletic style were all there as they’ve been in Providence the past couple of seasons, and his rebound control seemed to improve as time went along.
In the second period, he made 15 saves as the ice titled toward Boston’s defensive end with the Predators outshooting the B’s by a 16-3 margin. He made a flashy leg pad save on a Seth Jones one-man rush after he blew past Adam McQuaid, and was only beaten in the middle frame on a broken play following a poor B’s line change.
Otherwise, Svedberg held the Bruins in the game until Boston found its offense in the third period, scoring a pair of goals to stake the B’s to a one-goal lead. Shea Weber was able to found a bit of daylight between Svedberg’s pads on a missile from the point to tie things up with 5:25 remaining. But there’s little shame in getting scored on by a slapper from the man with the hardest shot in the NHL behind B’s captain Zdeno Chara.
After allowing the tying goal, Svedberg locked things down and showed the B’s exactly what he can bring to the table at the NHL level. There’s a confidence level that Svedberg could step in should anything happen injury-wise to Tuukka Rask, and that he’s fully capable of handling the NHL backup duties should that job open up over time.
“That’s why I came over to play in this league. It’s been a dream and a goal all my life [to play in the NHL], but at the same time it’s only one game,” said Svedberg, who becomes the first Swedish goaltender in the 90-year history of the Bruins franchise. “I have to keep working hard to get more games. It’s obviously nice to get the first game.
“You just want to put all of your focus on playing the game that brought you here. I think that’s the best way to do it. It’s worked before, you never know coming to a new level, but I felt good today.”
Svedberg doesn’t know how much longer he’ll be in Providence. Still, there aren’t any questions anymore on whether or not he looks like an NHL goaltender after his performance on Thursday night.