Bruins may have something in Providence with goalie Svedberg


Bruins may have something in Providence with goalie Svedberg

PROVIDENCE, RI There were plenty of nervous Bruins executives when word first filtered out of the Czech Republic that Tuukka Rask had suffered some kind of groin injury while playing overseas. It ended up being a minor tweak and Rask has been no worse for the wear since the incident, but the specter of injury has forced the Bruins to closely inspect their organizational depth when it comes to goaltending.

Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli indicated a catastrophic injury to either Rask or Anton Khudobin while overseas could potentially push the Bruins to recall 18-year-old Malcolm Subban from the OHL for any shortened NHL training camp over the next two months.

That obviously wouldnt be an ideal situation. Its pretty clear that Subban isnt ready for the NHL even if the 2.32 goals against average and .925 save percentage in 13 games with the Belleville Bulls this season. But perhaps there are other alternatives for the Bruins should something happen in the next few weeks while the NHL and NHLPA try to hash out a new CBA.

Swedish import Niklas Svedberg was signed to little fanfare in the weeks leading up to the news that Bruins goaltender Tim Thomas was thinking of sitting out the 2012-13 NHL season. After all he was an undrafted 23-year-old Swedish goalie with a few decent seasons in the Swedish Elite League before he helped lead his Brynas IF Galve team to a league championship last season.

But Svedberg impressed during that playoff run and hes been very good in a handful of games for the Providence Bruins in his first taste of North American pro hockey. Svedberg made 18 saves in his first AHL shutout in a 3-0 win over the St. Johns IceCaps on Sunday afternoon at the Dunkin Donuts Center.

It was a great feeling. It was nice to get our first home win, said Svedberg. It was tough to keep up in the game because I didnt see many shots. We had the puck so much in their end.

It hasnt been that big an adjustment for me going from Europe to the AHL. Im just playing the game the same way I did back home. But I also know Ive got plenty of things I need to develop in my game. I just need to keep on working.

There wasnt a ton required of Svedberg through the 60 minutes of dominant hockey for the P-Bruins, but he did make the clichd big save at the big point in the game that is so key for any good goalie. With the P-Bruins holding on to a 1-0 lead when they probably should have been up by at least a couple of goals, Maxime Macenaeur cut loose for a shorthanded breakaway all alone in the Providence end.

Instead of freezing in panic Svedberg kicked away the Macenauer shot with a right pad save, and minutes later the P-Bruins had their second insurance goal. Its those kinds of momentum-building plays that can separate AHL goaltenders from NHL puck-stoppers, and Svedberg at least showed a glint of it on Sunday.

On the season hes 3-1 with a 2.01 goals against average and a .927 save percentage, and Svedberg has shown the athletic ability to make game-changing saves. Hes also made the Bruins coaching staff take notice after thoroughly outplaying Michael Hutchinson during the early going of the season.

Theres clearly a goaltending competition taking place in Providence.

Svedberg didnt have a lot of work, but he made that one save that you needed when it still a 1-0 game in the second period. That one got the bench up and gave us a lift, said P-Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy. Hutchinson hasnt won a game yet, and thats a problem when youre a third year guy that we need to get going. We need him to be a good goalie.

But at the same time Svedberg has just been a better goalie, plain and simple. This is where you get into the AHL being a development vs. winning line that you need to balance. Right now its Svedbergs ball to run with, but were going to need both of them. I dont think Hutchinson is that far off. Hes getting hit with one easy one in each game.

There are also some things that Svedberg still needs to refine. Hes shown major difficulties handling the puck around his own net, and his mishandling of dumped pucks has led directly to goals-against for Providence. The smaller arenas in North America also make for a much more congested area around the net, and Svedberg is still getting accustomed to the piles of body traffic in and around his cage.

But those are the kinds of kinks that are typically worked out by players when theyre plying their trade at the minor league level.

Svedberg is a winner. He won a championship in Sweden and hes a battler. Other players notice that kind of stuff, said Cassidy. He got exposed a little on his short side in Manchester and hes still working on picking up shots in front of the net with traffic. Hes not used to that.

But hes very good post-to-post because that what he grew up doing. He also needs to get used to playing the puck when hes got guys bearing down on him. Some of this stuff we knew going in and he just needs to keep working on it.

While it may not be tomorrow or next week as Svedberg refines his game, the Swedish goalie is starting to flash glimpses that he might just have a future in the Bruins organization. Thats music to the ears of all those Bruins front office types that were suddenly feeling the pinch of their goaltending depth with Rask and Khudobin at risk for an injury while playing a half world away.

BOSTON SPORTS TONIGHT PODCAST: Is trading for Paul George worth the risk?


BOSTON SPORTS TONIGHT PODCAST: Is trading for Paul George worth the risk?

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0:41 - Michael Holley, Kayce Smith and Tom Giles recap their thoughts on drafting Jayson Tatum and trade rumors involving the Celtics.

6:21 - Ian Thomsen joins BST to discuss if it would be worth trading for Paul George as a one-year rental and if there would be a chance he could still around long-term if traded to Boston.

11:13 - Evan Drellich joins BST to talk about Rick Porcello’s outing, the Red Sox offense coming to life, and Doug Fister being claimed by the Red Sox. 

15:10 - Kyle Draper and A. Sherrod Blakely look back at the Celtics/Nets trade, what the assets have turned into, and if Danny Ainge has done a good job turning those assets into players. 

Haggerty: Bruins playing it pretty safe at the NHL Draft

Haggerty: Bruins playing it pretty safe at the NHL Draft

CHICAGO – As opening nights go at the NHL Draft, Friday night was a bit of a ho-hum affair for the Boston Bruins at the United Center home of the Chicago Blackhawks.

The Bruins went the safe route by drafting a smooth, defensive-minded defenseman with the 18th overall pick when they selected Finnish product Urho Vaakenainen, and in doing so left more dynamic forwards like Kristian Vesalainen and Kailer Yamamoto still on the draft board for other teams to claim as their own. It was a bit of a curious choice given how many defensemen the Bruins already have in the prospect pipeline, but the lack of strength in the draft class seemed to lead teams to carve their own paths looking for players.

MORE: Bruins select defenseman Urho Vaakanainen with No. 18 pick

The 6-foot-1, 188-pounder clearly has miles to go offensively despite his smooth skating and solid passing skills, but there’s also a consideration that the teenager has been playing in the men’s league in Finland for the last couple of seasons. It makes things a little more difficult to project for the Finn D-man, but the Bruins believe there is some upside to his offensive game given the skills, the hockey IQ and the considerable confidence that the player has in his own game.

“His gap control and skating ability are really good. He’s obviously played in the Finnish Elite League at a very young age for one and a half years now and he’s played on the big stage at the world juniors. We feel like there’s a lot of upside for a 200-foot player that gets back on pucks, and then can transition them back out. Being able to cover ice is an important part of the game, and it continues to evolve in that direction,” said Bruins GM Don Sweeney, who indicated Vaakenainen will play in North America in 2018-19 after fulfilling his contractual obligations in Finland. “We tracked what he did on offense at the junior league level prior to him jumping to the elite league, and it lines up pretty well with other elite players that made the jump to that level.

“It’s a valid question and whether he gets put into those [offensive] situations this year is what we’re excited about with his [Finnish] team moving forward.”

While Vaakenainen sounded surprised the Bruins selected him after only a single meeting at the NHL scouting combine, Sweeney said that Boston’s head scout in Finland has enough history with the family to vouch for the kid’s makeup.

So while it’s far from a sexy pick and the Bruins could have tried to hit a home run with an 18th overall selection in a mediocre draft, the B’s will also get some time before anybody is ready to label the Finnish blueliner a boom or a bust.

The rest of the draft night didn’t add up to much for the B’s, however. They made the selection of Vaakenainen after strongly considering dropping down in the first round, and in doing so lost one of the better trade chips in the form of their 2017 first round pick. There were discussions with Minnesota about Marco Scandella and a few trade feelers to other clubs that might listen on a D-man, but the Bruins now have to hit the reset button on trade discussions for left-shot defensemen or top-6 left wings.

Perhaps Scandella’s $4 million per season salary was an issue for the Bruins, or maybe the Bruins didn’t want to give up their first round pick for a 27-year-old D-man coming off a so-so season with the Wild. Either way, there wasn’t enough momentum for the Bruins to get a trade done with a bevy of defensemen rumored to be available if the offer is good enough.

“I was on the record saying that we’d be offering our first round pick for target-specific players, and we did do that,” said Sweeney. “I don’t blame teams for not necessarily wanting to go through with it, so we went ahead with a player we wanted with our own pick. We continue to build what we think is a good group of guys moving forward.

“There are a couple of areas we’d like to address and get better. We’re trying to help our team currently. Certainly Brandon [Carlo] jumped into our lineup and we hope Charlie [McAvoy] will carry over what he did, and we have other players that will push. We have six returning defensemen we feel good about and we’ll certainly push from underneath, but it’s an area we’ll continue to address. We have some forwards that we also hope will come online, but we’ll never stop exploring and trying to improve our club.”

So let’s sum it all up after a week of additions and subtractions from the Original Six organization: The Bruins added a decidedly vanilla defenseman in the first round of the NHL Draft that might be a simple stay-at-home guy, and they weren’t able to muster any kind of deals for a D-man or winger to enhance the NHL roster. On the other hand, they didn’t give up much over the week as well and they didn’t do much at all to harm a solid roster that looked like they were finally on the right track pushing into the playoffs last season.

The Bruins could be in store for an action-packed Day Two of the draft on Saturday full of promising prospects and bountiful trades, but it sure feels like the 2017 NHL Draft in Chicago isn’t going to be a very memorable one for the Black and Gold.