Bruins

Milbury: Some in B's front office preferred Swayman-Vladar pairing in goal

Bruins

Hindsight may be 20-20, but the path the Boston Bruins took last summer in shaping their goaltending depth hasn't gone quite as planned so far.

According to one former NHL front office executive with plentiful ties to Boston, there was another route some within the Bruins' organization preferred taking when it came to protecting the crease

Appearing on WEEI's The Greg Hill Show on Wednesday, Mike Milbury said that there were some within Boston's front office who preferred rolling with a tandem of youngsters Jeremy Swayman and Dan Vladar -- the latter of whom posted a 28-save shutout against the B's for his new team, the Calgary Flames, on Sunday at TD Garden.

Where Bruins stand in East at crucial U.S. Thanksgiving benchmark

"Easy to say that now, right?" Milbury said. "It was the cheaper option. Vladar and Swayman, in particular, had suggested [with their play] that they were going to be able to handle the load."

The Bruins hung on to Swayman, who celebrates his 23rd birthday Wednesday. But instead of sticking with the 24-year-old Vladar, the Bruins went and signed Linus Ullmark, 28, to a four-year, $20 million contract in free agency.

Results with Swayman and Ullmark to date have been mixed, to say the least. The duo has posted an identical .908 save percentage through 15 games for the Bruins (9-6-0), combining for the 21st-best figure in the 32-team NHL. Swayman's 2.39 goals against average is 12th among qualified goalies, a more than respectable spot, but Ullmark's 2.87 mark is 28th.

 

In a backup role for first-place Calgary (12-3-5), Vladar is 4-0-1 with a .946 save percentage and 1.57 goals against average and two shutouts, or two more than the Bruins have as a team.

The wild-card in the Bruins' goaltending quandary is the status of Tuukka Rask, the franchise's leader in wins who has said he'll be ready to return sometime around the New Year from a torn labrum in his hip. Rask, 34, is currently a free agent.

"It’s looking like it was not the right way to go, and that Vladar and Swayman would’ve been a good option," Milbury said. "And then you still have the Rask option in January or February in your holster.

"Now they’re going to have to move Ullmark or ride with what they have the rest of the year. I think they’ve limited their options with that signing. You have to live with that. Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose, and sometimes you pick a bad goalie.”

The Bruins have played only 15 games, tie for fewest in the NHL entering play Wednesday. So there is plenty of time for both Swayman -- who has been pretty solid anyways -- and Ullmark to turn it around. But if Vladar continues to look the part of a capable goalie, even in spot duty with Calgary, it's going to make Boston's decision to deal him away for just a third-round draft pick that much easier to second guess.