Still some ‘unknown' with Bruins backup goalie situation

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WILMINGTON, MA -- With four talented goaltenders all under the age of 30, the state of the Bruins organization’s goalie depth would be the envy of many of the other 29 teams around the NHL.

The No. 1 goalie spot is, of course, in good hands with Tuukka Rask ready to play another 60-plus games this upcoming season after appearing in a career-high 70 games in 2014-15.

But the question arises about the backup for Rask after a young goaltender, Niklas Svedberg, struggled in the backup role to Rask last season, and ultimately lost the confidence of the coaching staff when he couldn’t handle the sporadic playing time associated with the job.

Right now the Bruins have three young goalies again vying for that backup spot with Jeremy Smith and Malcolm Subban as the goaltending tandem that finished out last season with the Providence Bruins, and 22-year-old Zane McIntyre ready to start his pro career after signing out of the University of North Dakota.

McIntyre was clearly the most polished goaltender at this week’s Bruins development camp, and comes into training camp with a Mike Richter Award and Hobey Baker finalist on an impressive college hockey resume.

“I was working mostly on my post play, and post integrations and stuff like that where I can use different techniques in different situations,” said McIntyre of his development camp week spent working largely with Bruins goalie coach Bob Essensa. “We kind of set a foundation as we move forward into the pro ranks.”

But the three young goalies have a grand total of one NHL game of experience -- last year’s rough debut for Subban against the St. Louis Blues -- and the Bruins again run the risk of pushing a young goalie into a difficult backup role. Bruins GM Don Sweeney mentioned the possibility on Friday of bringing in a veteran free agent to compete for the backup role in camp, and that might just be the smartest course of action for the Black and Gold.

“Somebody has to step up and grab that role, and Zane is confident that he wants to . . . and I’m sure Malcolm is, and Jeremy is as well,” said Sweeney. “That’s healthy. It’s a bit of an unknown for us, so that’s an area that I’m going to continue to look at. Whether it’s a little more experience or you do allow a [younger] person to emerge in that regard.

“Zane is confident in his abilities, but that’s a big leap, and I think Zane would be the first to tell you that it’s a big leap. But the bottom line is that when you stop pucks people notice, so we’ll see where that goes.”

Ray Emery, Peter Budaj and Jonas Gustavsson stand as the most established veteran, free agent goaltenders that could be brought in as Rask’s backup, but like most things it will come down to price for the Bruins. A veteran goalie is going to have to be willing to play for the same low-level contract under $1 million as Subban, McIntyre and Smith will be while competing for the understudy role behind Rask.

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