Before the season started for Boston, the team needed to determine who would be on the bench behind Rask. Last year’s backup, Anton Khudobin, signed with the Carolina Hurricanes in the offseason as a free agent. Invited to camp were minor league sensation Niklas Svedberg, Boston’s 2012 draft pick Malcolm Subban and free agent Chad Johnson. Despite coming off a season in which he was named AHL goalie of the year as a member of the Providence Bruins, Svedberg was passed over in favor of Johnson. Subban, too, was deemed not ready.
In his time as backup goalie, Johnson has been relatively reliable. He’s posted a 6-2-0 record, as well as a .911 save percentage and a 2.40 GAA. However, as indicated by his record, the Bruins haven’t given him a lot of time. Rask has played in 29 of the team’s 37 games so far this year, so there may be some trust issues still being worked out with Johnson.
Adding to that is today’s announcement that Svedberg has been recalled to Boston. According to Bruins coach Claude Julien, the team plans on giving Svedberg a shot sometime during this weekend’s home-and-home series with the Ottawa Senators, most likely during Saturday night’s tilt.
Svedberg’s stats alone certainly merit giving him a look. He’s 11-5-3 for Providence this season, with a 2.91 GAA and .907 save percentage. Though Johnson’s numbers are slightly better, the Bruins are likely eager to see what they have in Svedberg. Johnson has been bouncing back and forth between the NHL and the minor leagues for quite some time now, while Svedberg is one of Boston’s top prospects.
It wouldn’t be surprising, though, if Svedberg’s time with Boston is short, at least this time around. The team is in a position where they don’t necessarily need him right away, and can afford to send him back down to the AHL to give him plenty of playing time.
That said, the large discrepancy between Rask and Johnson’s playing time is a little concerning. The last thing Boston wants is to have their franchise goalie be too exhausted by the time the postseason comes around. They’ll need to have a reliable backup in the coming months to make sure Rask is in the best condition for another playoff run.
With all of that in mind, it makes perfect sense for the Bruins to give Svedberg his big league debut now to see how he handles everything. If he impresses, he may get more looks later in the season.