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Goaltender Dan Vladar showed promise in his first few NHL starts, but ultimately averaged out and ended up being outshined by his fellow rookie netminder.
As Tuukka Rask dealt with an injury during March and April and COVID-19 protocols sidelined Jaroslav Halak, the Boston Bruins’ rookie goaltenders got their chance.
First up was Vladar, who had been in Providence since 2016.
Prior to his first regular-season appearance with the B’s, Vladar appeared in five games during the P-Bruins’ weird 2020-21 season in which he was 2-2-1. His AHL stats were solid, and included a shutout.
Vladar made his regular season debut on March 16 against the Pittsburgh Penguins. It was his first NHL start, but not first NHL appearance, as he made his NHL debut during the 2020 playoffs to relieve Halak during Game 3 of the second round.
The Czech native had a standout game against the Penguins and earned himself his first career win with 34 saves and one goal allowed.
Who could forget that incredible highlight-reel worthy paddle save too?
The young goaltender started strong with two wins in two starts. He made 59 saves on 62 shots faced.
However, his relative inexperience seemed to get the best of him in his next few starts and with the shortened season and the other goalies returning to form, he didn’t get a chance to recover or redeem himself.
Vladar went 0-2-1 in his final three outings as a Bruin and during those games, he had some careless positioning issues, made some mistakes as he tried to clear behind his net and had trouble sliding from post to post.
Particularly, he had trouble sliding to the right post to stop a few goals that were let in on rebound opportunities.
One of Vladar’s biggest problems during his five-game stint was the lengthy rebounds he left.
Sometimes he played too aggressive and couldn’t reset in time for the opposing team to pick up the loose pucks.
But then he’d make these impressive back-to-back saves:
Dan Vladar with a couple of huge saves on the Flyers' power play: pic.twitter.com/bMv9x1qjtR— Conor Ryan (@ConorRyan_93) April 6, 2021
To be fair, Vladar decline in form also came as the Bruins’ defense dealt with their own set of issues. And unfortunately, he was the sacrificial lamb during during the April 11 game against the Washington Capitals, in which he and the depleted Bruins allowed eight goals on 33 shots (a .758 save percentage).
That game was in absolutely no way Vladar’s fault, and it’s kind of a shame: he didn’t get to appear in another game during the regular season. It was a tough way to end what had been a solid stretch for a rookie goalie.
After that game, Jeremy Swayman found his groove and provided a more consistent, confident style in net, sliding into the tandem with Rask to end the year.
The Washington game really skewed his stats in an unfair way, so if you take out his best and worst performances, his stats were a .899 save percentage and a GAA of somewhere around 2.8.
Vladar finished out the season with five more games in Providence and ended his P-Bruins’ season with a 3-4-3 record, one shutout, and 2.19 GAA in the AHL.
The Bruins protected Vladar in the 2021 Expansion Draft, but later traded the goaltender to the Calgary Flames for a third-round draft pick in 2022.
That same day, the B’s made additional goaltending moves by signing Linus Ullmark for the NHL and Troy Grosenick for depth.
Ultimately, Vladar was done in by his waiver status, as the Bruins would have risked losing him for nothing had they cut him out of training camp.
Although he started strong and showed promise, Vladar ended up being outshined by Swayman, which put him in a tough spot for the B’s.
It wouldn’t be surprising to see him have a nice run in Calgary — let’s just hope none of that comes against his former team.