It will be a little bit of “What if?” Boston Bruins edition on Sunday night when last year’s young B’s goalie tandem will instead go head-to-head when the Calgary Flames travel to TD Garden. Dan Vladar is expected to get the start for the Calgary Flames after Flames starting netminder Jakob Markstrom (34 saves) was the starting goaltender in Saturday night’s 5-2 win over the New York Islanders.
The 24-year-old Vladar, of course, is the former goalie prospect for the Black and Gold that got a chance last season along with rookie Jeremy Swayman when both Jaroslav Halak and Tuukka Rask were sidelined by injuries and illness.
The former B’s third round pick was shipped to Calgary for a third round pick last summer after the Boston Bruins signed Linus Ullmark to a four-year, $20 million contract to work as the established veteran with 22-year-old Swayman. There was some thought the Bruins might just go into this season with Swayman and Vladar as a young goaltender tandem until Tuukka Rask could potentially return in January from hip surgery, but that obviously didn’t happen.
If the Bruins had gone that route, it would have saved them serious cap space and would have allowed them to either A) chase another $5 million player in free agency or B) store the space away for a big move at the trade deadline. Instead, they spent the money on Ullmark, who has been merely okay at the start of his Bruins career with a 4-3-0 record along with a 2.87 goals against average and .908 save percentage this season.
Instead, the Bruins are rolling with Ullmark and Swayman after clearly being very reticent about going with two young goaltenders, and the B’s are left to be happy for Vladar finally getting a legit NHL shot with the Flames.
“Happy it’s going well for him. He was a good Bruin. Worked hard. Had a couple of tough injuries that limited his time in Providence. He came over here at a young age…great kid. You had him and Swayman, equally hard-working kids and he played some good games for us,” said Boston Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy of Vladar, who is expected to be the starter on Sunday night. “I’m happy for him. I hope our guy outplays him tonight, don’t get me wrong. But I’ve got nothing bad to say about Vladdy. He’s a good pro. He was well-liked in the room, and he’s got some talent.
“I think he’s in a good spot behind a guy like Markstrom that plays a lot, so he can sort of learn his craft at the NHL level without forced to be the guy every night. I think that helps a lot. I’m sure Sway is going to want to be put his best foot forward against, so it should be a good battle of young goalies.”
It will undoubtedly be a stellar matchup between the young goalies as Swayman (5-2-0, 2.16 goals against average and .914 save percentage) and Vladar (3-0-1, 1.96 goals against average and .933 save percentage) are off to excellent starts this season. And Vladar is excited to be able to see how good he can be at the NHL level after being stuck behind veteran goalies in Boston for the first six years of his pro hockey career.
“I know my role here,” Vladar told the media earlier this week. “I’m super, super grateful and happy to get the chance to be here. I’ve waited for this opportunity for five or six years. So I’m super happy to be here.”
Vladar is also having some fun as he did at Halloween when he had fun with his Darth Vladar nickname and dressed up as the Sith Lord along with his girlfriend.
— Dan Vladar (@danvladar) November 1, 2021
Now everybody gets to see if it’s going to be fun and games for Vladar when he returns to his Boston roots on Sunday and gets a chance to show the Bruins what they missed out on when they dealt him to Calgary a few months ago.