WINNIPEG – Niklas Svedberg said the throng of 15,006 fans at the MTS Centre was the largest crowd he’s ever played in front of, but you never would have guessed it while watching his cool glove hand.
“It was pretty good. We got the win and that was most important,” said Svedberg, who was 37-8-2 with a .925 save percentage and 2.17 goals against average last season in Providence. “I felt good. It was fun to get the game-pace going, and to play in front of a full arena. It’s always fun to play in them.”
The 24-year-old Swedish netminder made 26 saves, some of them while standing on his head in the second period, and helped power the Bruins to a 3-2 overtime victory over the Winnipeg Jets in their first of back-to-back preseason games. Svedberg may be finished with his preseason work. Still, while Tuukka Rask is expected to play the bulk the Friday night game in Saskatoon, Svedberg was the most consistent B’s goaltender in the preseason.
Bruins coach Claude Julien was certainly impressed with his young goalie’s performance following the win.
“I thought [Svedberg] played well,” said Julien. “He had a lot of traffic in front of him tonight, but he was able to stop those pucks with the screen in front of him.”
Svedberg finished with a .927 save percentage (38-of-41 saves) in his two appearances, and it’s difficult to fault him for either of the goals allowed Thursday night. Instead it was more about the flashy glove save on Chris Thorburn from point blank in the game’s opening seconds after a sloppy Dennis Seidenberg turnover, and a couple of big-time stops on Evander Kane in the third period.
Svedberg was faulting himself slightly for the three goals allowed in the preseason that kept him from being perfect, but there’s little doubt he did his part in the backup goaltender competition with Chad Johnson. Clearly there is more to cracking the NHL roster than simply outperforming the opposition, and it may come down to salary-cap hits, waiver eligibility or simply needing more playing time as a younger player.
Still, Svedberg was hopeful he’d done enough.
For instance, Svedberg would count $1 million to the salary cap rather than the more affordable $600,000 cap hit for Johnson. But any “other” considerations wasn’t something Svedberg focused on after getting his 60-plus minutes in Winnipeg.
“You try to show your best game. I had three goals allowed here [in the preseason] when I could have had zero,” said Svedberg. “But we had two wins in my two games, so that was good.
“I play my best game on the ice and that’s what should matter. I don’t pay attention to things like [waivers].”
Johnson was excellent in shutting out the Detroit Red Wings last weekend in an 18-save performance, but looked shaky in his first appearance while allowing three goals on eight shots in Montreal. Svedberg was certainly the more consistent goalie in both his appearances, and was pushed a bit more by Washington and Winnipeg in his two appearances.
The right to be Tuukka Rask’s backup may involve more than simply letting the best goaltender win the spot, and both Johnson and Svedberg will find that simple fact out soon enough.
With injuries mounting on offense, the Patriots winning behind their defense might have to become the rule rather than the exception.