Phase 3 of the NHL’s Return to Play protocol began on Monday, with all 24 returning teams opening up their training camps. The Bruins have 33 players on their training camp roster, including 19 forwards, ten defensemen, and four goaltenders. See the above image for the full roster. They will have to cut the roster by two before heading to Toronto, as teams are allowed a max of 31 players, including goalies, for Phase 4.
One big question going into Phase 4 for me is what the Bruins will do for goalies. On one hand, it doesn’t seem smart to bring four goalies when you can only bring a total of 31 players. But, on the other hand, they need to make sure they have all of their bases covered in case Rask and/or Halak gets sick or injured. If need be, you can move a forward to defense (or vice versa). It probably won’t bring great results, but it can be done. However, you can’t just throw someone in as a goalie. You might as well forfeit the game before you do that. So, as much as it may pain them to do so, they should probably bring all four goalies with them to Toronto.
But, is it worth it to bring both Vladar and Lagace? Are they both in a position to fill in NHL minutes if it is unfortunately necessary? Or will they just crash and burn? Let’s take a look.
Vladar Shined This Season
After a rocky start to his career, Vladar broke out for Providence this season. To say he had a phenomenal season would be an understatement. He held a record of 14-7-1-3 (wins-losses-OT loss-shootout). Over the course of that, he maintained an unbelievable 1.79 goals-against average (GAA) and 0.936 save percentage (SV%). Both of these were good for the best in the AHL this season.
Unfortunately, Vladar was just edged out for the Aldege “Baz” Bastien Memorial Award, which is presented annually to the AHL’s Goaltender of the Year, by the Iowa Wild’s Kaapo Kahkonen. But, this should not take away from how good he was this year. Plus, he didn’t go home completely award-less this season, as he was the recipient of the P-Bruins “Fan Favorite” team award this season, so I guess that’s something.
For those who don’t know, Vladar a big goalie with great reflexes. He also used to have a very erratic style, which was a good and a bad thing. It was good because it kept players guessing, but bad because he often wound up out of position. But, he became more positional this season, which likely led to his improved stats. He still had his moments where you’d swear it’s dumb luck that he’s making the saves even though it isn’t, but there were a lot fewer. Regardless, if this season was any indication, the future is very bright for Vladar. He’ll surely spend at least one more season in Providence since Rask and Halak are under contract for next season. But, he could be ready for the NHL soon, and possibly even now as a fill-in.
Lagace Had A Great Season Too
Lagace also had a great season down in Providence. He split time pretty evenly with Vladar for most of the season. But, in the end, Lagace played in more games. He had a 22-7-3-5 record, through which he held an excellent 2.37 GAA and 0.919 SV%.
The biggest thing Lagace has going for him in his bid to stick with the Bruins is experience. Not only has he played a lot more in the AHL, but he has also spent time in the NHL. He’s played in 17 career NHL games (16 in 2017-18, one in 2018-19), all of which were with the Vegas Golden Knights. His stats from this time were not good at all (overall 3.92 GAA and 0.868 SV%). But, he was completely unprepared for the NHL at that time. He only played because of a truly incredible run of goalie injuries to Vegas (at one point they were on their sixth string goalie) in their inaugural season. Since then, he’s improved greatly down in the AHL, so it’s safe to assume if called up again, he’d be better.
Lagace is similar to Vladar in that he’s a big goalie with great reflexes. But, he’s much more of a technical goalie, which is good and bad. It’s good because it means he rarely finds himself out of position. But, it’s also bad in that sometimes he plays things too safe, such as not coming out and challenging a shooter, which ends up costing him. But, overall, he’s a solid depth goalie. He’ll probably never be a starter in the NHL, but he appears to be capable of filling in if necessary, and he could find himself as a backup someday.
So, Should the Bruins Bring Both Goalies?
It would certainly be nice if the Bruins could bring more players with them to Toronto. But, in the end, it’s probably better that they bring both Vladar and Lagace. They need to have a decent safety net if the unthinkable happens and Rask and/or Halak gets sick or injured, and bringing just one extra along won’t create that. Vladar has never seen NHL minutes and throwing him right into the playoffs probably isn’t a great idea. But, he played so well down in the AHL this season that if he had to step up for a couple of games and play, he might be able to do it. The Bruins defense is excellent and would rally to protect him at all costs, so he probably wouldn’t see a ton of shots.
On the other hand, Lagace has seen some NHL minutes. They didn’t go well. But, he’s a much better goalie now than he was then. Again, throwing him into the playoffs probably isn’t a great idea. But, he should be capable of holding his own if he has to step in. Like they would with Vladar, the team would rally around him and do whatever they can to minimize the number of shots he faced. So, he’d probably be able to hold his own for a couple of games.
In short, I think we’ll see all four goalies go to Toronto. From a risk standpoint, it’s the safest option. The Bruins will still be able to bring a lot of extra forwards and defensemen to fill in should players get sick or injured. They need to make sure they have enough goalies in case Rask or Halak get sick or hurt. Will either of Vladar or Lagace do great? Probably not. But, I think they are capable of stepping up and doing a good enough job to help the Bruins win.
-Lydia Murray (@lydia_murray12)