Tuukka Rask’s injury came at a bad time for the Bruins. Boston is fighting for a playoff spot while also working through some offensive kinks as they head into the stretch run. In Rask’s absence, much of the goaltending load has been placed on Jaroslav Halak and rookie Dan Vladar. Vladar got his first taste of action in the NHL bubble in 2020 and things did not go well; he gave up 3 goals on 15 shots in 28 minutes against Tampa Bay in Game 3 of the second-round playoffs.
This season, however, Vladar has shown promise that could make him at least a future rotational or backup goalie for the Bruins. The organization still has highly touted prospect Jeremy Swayman as a potential franchise goalie, but Vladar has shown in his last four games that he can handle playing at the NHL level. Since he began filling in after Rask’s injury, Vladar has a .922 save percentage and is allowing 2.25 goals per game. He has made several big saves, including a sprawling leg save on April 5th against the Flyers to help force overtime.
His first appearance, on the road against Pittsburgh, was sparkling. Vladar allowed one goal on 35 shots and earned his first career victory. He also made one of the saves of the season, using his stick while sprawling to keep a puck out of the net.
Since then, Vladar earned another win against Buffalo while stopping 25 of 27 shots on net. His two losses are a 4-1 decision against the Penguins and the April 5th overtime loss to Philadelphia.
Vladar has looked more comfortable with each passing game. His large, 6’5” frame has helped him make up for a couple puck handling or judgment mistakes to still come up with saves. His size in general also makes it more difficult to score against, as evidenced by the leg pad save against the Flyers. It is only a four game sample, but with Rask and Halak both free agents after the season the Bruins will need to have a plan for the future in place sooner rather than later. Vladar’s play has shown that he should at least be part of that plan.