Bruins fill a longtime need with goalie development coach


Bruins fill a longtime need with goalie development coach

It took longer than it probably should have, but the Bruins are finally getting proactive about the development of their young goaltenders.

The Bruins hired their first goalie development coach last week when they brought former NHL goalie Mike Dunham into the Black and Gold fold not long after he was let go by the New York Islanders organization after 11 years as their goalie coach. 

The hire probably isn’t going to rescue the career of former first-round pick Malcolm Subban as he continues to look more like a bust rather than the goalie of the future in Boston. But it could do is help the Bruins mold their next No. 1 guy when it's time to eventually move on from Tuukka Rask in the distant future.

It could also help avoid some of the pitfalls that Boston dropped into with Subban, whether that was rushing him a couple of years ago out of desperation, or simply watching him fail to improve in any tangible way the past three years in the AHL. While Subban is signed for two more years in Boston after getting a new contract this summer, it’s other, younger goalies who the Bruins are turning toward. 

Perhaps that’s Zane McIntyre, 24, as he’s entering just his third year in the pros after getting pushed into some NHL duty last season and finishing last season by guiding Providence through three rounds of the AHL playoffs. Or maybe it's draft pick prospects Daniel Vladar, 19, or University of Maine-bound Jeremy Swayman, 18, as they continue on their development. Either way, it’s clear that Boston’s young goalies have been lacking a little more hands-on instruction than Bruins goalie coach Bob Essensa could have possibly provided while working full-time with the NHL puck-stoppers.

So, in comes Dunham to fill the same kind of role with the goaltenders that former Stars and Devils forward Jamie Langenbrunner fills for the B’s positional prospects.

“I’ve had a lot of discussions with Bob Essensa and certainly he’s done a good job of covering as much as he possibly could. I think that with the addition of the video options that we now have, it just seems to be an expanded role,” said B’s general manager Don Sweeney. “We probably could have done this at an earlier time, but I feel really good that Mike Dunham was one of the coaches available. It was unique in the situation he was in. 

“We feel real fortunate that we found a really highly experienced guy that we can drop right in there and feel very comfortable about. I do believe the organization could have been served better had we done this years ago. We feel that, despite great proximity-wise, we just feel that our goaltending position, that we can do a better job overall of giving more resources to our individual players on a daily basis, whether it’s through daily interaction in practices or video work, or supplemental work. Of course, we have the prospects that are spread around as well. [It’s] more touches. It’ll allow Bob to travel a little bit more if he wants to without necessarily having to go to Providence all the time as Mike would be there.”

Sweeney didn’t elaborate on why the Bruins didn’t opt for a goalie development coach when he was the front man for Boston’s player development system, but development coaches, in general, are still a pretty new phenomenon for the Black and Gold. Better late than never perhaps as the Bruins address a need to better support their young goalies and avoid repeating some of the mistakes they’ve made the past few seasons. 

Grzelcyk happy to be back w/ B's and confident in his game


Grzelcyk happy to be back w/ B's and confident in his game

BRIGHTON, Mass – It had to be a bitter pill for Matt Grzelcyk to be sent back down to the AHL after playing solidly for the Bruins earlier this season. 

The 23-year-old Charlestown native was excellent playing in place of Torey Krug in Boston’s opening night win over the Nashville Predators, but his stay didn’t last very long. The former Boston University standout was back in the minor leagues shortly afterward once Krug returned from his fractured jaw a little earlier than expected. Now Krug is again banged up again with an upper body injury, and Grzelcyk has been called up to fill in for Krug during Wednesday night’s pre-Thanksgiving road game in New Jersey against the Devils.

Once again it will be about a focus on puck-moving and power play for Grzelcyk, who is the closest thing that the Bruins have to the smaller, skilled Krug in their minor league system. 

“I was happy with how things went before I got sent to Providence, so I’m just going to try to do the things that I was doing well before I got sent down. Mentally knowing that I can play at the NHL level [is huge], and just going through the experience was positive,” said Grzelcyk. “Mentally my first year I think I was a little too nervous and tentatively with my play, and that’s not me at all when I’m at my best. I’m confident with the puck, and confident with my speed and ability. It was just about going out and doing it on the ice.”

Grzelcyk was okay down in Providence with four assists and a plus-4 rating in 14 games, but he’s been patiently waiting for another NHL call since logging 12:11 of solid puck-moving ice time in his lone appearance for Boston this season. Now he’ll get it in a likely pairing with Kevan Miller against the New Jersey Devils

“He’s a puck-mover. He’s quick. He can get up the ice and support the rush, and he’s a good distributor,” said Cassidy of Grzelcyk. “There are a lot of natural similarities to Torey [Krug] because of their physical makeup, but they are similar [players] with Torey at this level being a bit more significant offensive player. Whether it’s in [Grzelcyk] or not time will tell, but we believe it is and we just need to get it out of him.”

Grzelcyk will get a chance to show that offensive wrinkle and more when he suits up against the New Jersey Devils for his second game of the season after paying his dues with the P-Bruins overt the last month. 


Bruins still holding out on a goalie decision for Devils game


Bruins still holding out on a goalie decision for Devils game

BRIGHTON -- Coming off a pair of back-to-back wins from backup goaltender Anton Khudobin, the Bruins are still undecided about what they’re going to do between the pipes Wednesday night against the New Jersey Devils.

On the one hand, the Bruins are very tempted to ride the hot goaltending hand with Khudobin a strong 5-0-2 record on the season and a .935 save percentage that currently leads all goaltenders across the league. There’s a school of thought that the B’s should simply keep plugging Khudobin into the lineup until he actually loses a game, and begins to cool down a little bit between the pipes after stopping 63-of-65 shots against LA and San Jose.

At the same time it will be over a week since Tuukka Rask has played in a game if the Bruins go with Khudobin on Wednesday night against the Devils, and Bruce Cassidy was clear to stress that Rask is still their No. 1 guy. So that’s the dilemma the Bruins are facing with Cassidy calling it “a good problem to have” based on Khudobin’s strong play from the backup spot.

That is a far cry from what the Bruins experienced a year ago with the same goalie, and a reason for optimism that their goaltending situation will be better off throughout a long season.

“Do you go with the hot hand and leave your No. 1 sitting where he’s beginning to wonder what the hell is going on? That’s the decision,” said Bruce Cassidy. “We need to keep them both in a good place, and not lose out on [Khudobin’s] good run while keeping Tuukka focused and confident in his game. That’s what we’re battling and I talk to Goalie Bob [Essensa] about it every day. We’ll make our decision [on Wednesday] and we hope it’s the right one.

“It’s a long year so no matter who we use there are a lot of starts. I don’t think Khudobin is going to go ice cold if he use Tuukka tomorrow, and I don’t think Tuukka is going to blow a gasket if we go with the hot hand. For me I don’t think it’s that big of a decision.”

Perhaps Rask blowing a gasket wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world given the way he’s played this season.

The one underlying concern for Rask beyond the .897 save percentage this season is that his game has really been in a different place for the last three seasons. While his .922 career save percentage mark is among the best in the NHL, he has been below that mark in each of the last three seasons while struggling to maintain consistently behind a changing roster that’s turning over to youth and inexperience.

It certainly seems like the Bruins feel it’s premature to label Rask as anything but their No. 1 goaltender, but the pause they’re giving on Wednesday night’s starter speaks volumes about their current confidence level in each of their puck-stoppers.