Who is the Bruins’ Future Number One Goaltender?

Let me just start out by saying this: I am not here to entertain a goalie controversy involving Tuukka Rask. Contrary to what two journalists on the Bruins beat mentioned earlier today just to stir the pot, the net is undoubtedly still Tuukka’s once he returns from injury. It will still be his for the next few years provided he continues playing (which, listening to his most recent comments on it, doesn’t sound like his plan. He wants to be what Tim Thomas was to him for his successor). There is simply no question about that, so this is not what this article is about. If you doubt his skill, please refer to this card to see just how good he has been.

However, watching the recent play of Dan Vladar and Jeremy Swayman, a different goalie question has come up. I found myself wondering how the future of the Bruins’ net will shake out. Vladar has also been excellent down in Providence the past two seasons. Meanwhile, Swayman is only in his first pro season, but he’s been excellent down in Providence too. Both of them have been outstanding in their limited appearances in the NHL. The Bruins also have Kyle Keyser, who had a phenomenal junior career. But, he’s unfortunately struggled with injuries since turning pro that have slowed his development. However, when he’s been healthy, he’s been solid down in the ECHL and AHL. So, it begs the question, which one of these three will be Rask’s successor? 

Keyser Will Likely Be Lost in the Shuffle

As of right now, it certainly looks like out of the three options, Keyser is the least likely to see a lot of NHL time with the Bruins, if any. Vladar and Swayman got their opportunities first, and they’re currently making the most of them. Unless that changes, I think Keyser ends up getting lost in the shuffle. That’s through no fault of his own either. He’s likely going to be a great goalie. It’s largely because of the unfortunate injuries that have limited his playing time these past few years and slowed his development. Meanwhile, Vladar and Swayman were able to stay healthy and play a ton.

Because of all this, my guess is we see Keyser get moved at some point in the next few years. This is particularly true if Keyser continues to play well because it will raise his trade stock. There’s no point in holding on to him for a while if you don’t see him fitting into your future plans. I also don’t think he’d want to stay if he begins to emerge as a player with NHL potential. So, if Keyser starts to put together a solid pro resume and the Bruins still like what they have in Vladar and Swayman more, look for him to be included in a trade package eventually. Obviously, things could change, but it stands right now, that’s my thinking.

So, Will It Be Vladar Or Swayman?

That leaves us with the Bruins’ next ace being either Vladar or Swayman. Or at least, that’s what you may think at first. I actually have a different proposal. As things stand right now, I’m not so sure either of them will be a true number one goaltender. If they’re okay with it, I can very easily see this being a 1A/1B situation for a long time. That’s not because they aren’t capable of being true number ones either. It’s because they both seem very capable of it. If they stay on their current paths and they’re happy playing around half the games every year, then why not do it? They’re looking to be excellent goalies in the NHL, so if the Bruins can keep both, then they absolutely should. They’ll be set in net for a long time if they do.

All of that being said, if I had to pick one guy as the Bruins’ next ace, I think I have to go with Swayman. He faced the greatest goal scorer of all time in just his second NHL game and wasn’t rattled by it. That’s absolutely incredible to me. It’s been two games, and yet he already looks comfortable and confident in an NHL crease. Do I think he’s ready to be a number one right now? No, and that’s not a knock on him. He’s just only played 11 pro games (nine in the AHL, two in the NHL) and needs some more development time. Rushing goalies never works out; ask the Philadelphia Flyers and the St. Louis Blues. But, he certainly looks promising, and in time, he will almost surely be an outstanding NHL goaltender.

That Being Said, It Could Easily Be Vladar Too

None of this is to slight Vladar either. He could easily be the Bruins’ next number one too. But, if they choose not to go with a 1A/1B situation, it certainly seems like the Bruins prefer Swayman for the future. He will be making his third straight start on Saturday while Vladar has yet to be given consecutive ones (although it could easily be argued that he’s earned them too). I could be reading into it too much, but that to me says which one they like a little better than the other.

Just like with Kyle Keyser, things could easily still change when it comes to Dan Vladar and Jeremy Swayman. One of them could begin to fade while the other keeps getting better, thus eliminating any question of who will succeed Tuukka Rask. That doesn’t seem overly likely unless one of them finds their development unnecessarily rushed or gets seriously injured. The Bruins are known for keeping guys down in Providence longer than they really need to be though, so I don’t see that happening.

The Bruins Might Have a Tough Decision Ahead

If things continue on the trend they are on now, the Bruins could have a difficult decision down the road (unless things have changed since the beginning of the year, which doesn’t seem likely unless it’s because of his back) when Tuukka retires. Both Vladar and Swayman are shaping up to be excellent goaltenders. The ideal situation, and one that I see as a real possibility, is that they both stay and the Bruins split their playing time mostly evenly, so they’re 1A and 1B. It’s working well out in Vegas right now with Robin Lehner and Marc-Andre Fleury, and it seems like something we’ll start to see more often around the NHL. 

So, as long as they’re both ok with that and don’t want to go looking for a place they can play the vast majority of the games, then I think that’s what happens. But, if they aren’t, then it seems like the Bruins will choose Swayman over Vladar. It won’t be an easy choice, but that’s the way I’m leaning right now. However, I hope it doesn’t come to that, and we can enjoy them both as 1A and 1B for a long time. If that’s the case, the Bruins will not have to worry about their net until their times are up.

-Lydia Murray (@lydia_murray12)

Featured image courtesy of via ESPN.com.

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