Evaluators around the NHL were closely watching Boston’s goaltending situation last year.
Tuukka Rask and Jaroslav Halak were pending free agents. Jeremy Swayman, 22, and Dan Vladar, 23, were coming.
Someone would be available.
The Bruins’ loss became the Flames’ gain, and again became the Bruins’ loss Sunday. In front of a chokehold of a Calgary defense, Vladar pitched a 4-0 shutout.
Vladar, shipped out July 28 for a third-round pick in next summer’s draft, made 27 saves for his second straight shutout. The backup also blanked the Senators last Sunday in Ottawa. He has stopped his last 54 shots.
Vladar, who left Boston the same day the Bruins signed Linus Ullmark from Buffalo, has combined with starter Jacob Markstrom for seven shutouts this year. Seven NHL teams – Arizona, Seattle, Ottawa, Montreal, Chicago, the Islanders, and Vancouver – have fewer wins than the Flames have shutouts.
According to Sportsnet, the Flames became the first NHL team since offensive forward passes were allowed in 1929 to post seven shutouts in the first 19 games of a season.
In a low-event, largely bland game, Vladar (4-0-1, 1.57 GAA, .945 save percentage) submitted his best work in the third period Sunday.
He squeezed his pads when Charlie McAvoy challenged him on a 1-on-1 rush. He used his lanky arms to foil Jake DeBrusk several times. He denied Czech countryman Jakub Zboril.
The Flames battled for him, swarming Nick Foligno after the Bruin poked at a puck in the crease in the second. They surrounded him with red and white sweaters after the win.
“If you would have told me yesterday, I wouldn’t have believed it,” Vladar said of the clean sheet against the team that drafted him (third round, 75th overall, in 2015). “Obviously, it’s great, but the season is still at the start, so you can’t get too high from it. You still have to keep going.”
Vladar didn’t say anything to his ex-mates during the warmup.
“I knew my role, I know who I’m playing against, I know who is my family,” he said. “I was just fighting for our team and I really feel like a part of this team, you know?”
Vladar left here as a well-liked teammate, Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy said on Saturday. Before Sunday’s puck drop, Calgary general manager Brad Treliving said the Flames have fallen in love with the affable netminder.
In scouting him over the last few years, they saw potential in his big frame (6-foot-5, 185 pounds) and quick – sometimes, too quick – movements. They were undeterred by Vladar’s playoff performance in the 2020 Toronto bubble, when Rask was hurt, Halak was pulled, and Tampa steamrolled the newcomer.
With backup David Rittich soon to be an unrestricted free agent, Calgary’s analysts scoured the annual carousel of veteran netminders. They saw Swayman rising in Boston, earning the inside track.
They zeroed in on Vladar. He became their No. 1 option.
“You’re looking at who might be those next guys to pop,” Treliving said. “He’s not there yet, but we saw him in the American (Hockey) League and in Europe. He’s big. He’s athletic.”
They were fine with surrendering a third-round pick. Flames goalie coach Jason Labarbera, like Mike Dunham (Providence) and Bob Essensa (Boston) before him, has worked to quiet Vladar’s movements, to get him to rely more on his size rather than explosiveness.
“He endeared himself to his teammates immediately,” Treliving said. “He’s so respectful. He’s just a big kid. And the work ethic, he puts time in. You can’t help but like the kid.
“I know Donnie (Sweeney) thought the world of him, too. He’s authentic. It’s not a show. I think he’s just a happy kid, very respectful, very polite.”
Even after taking a hard loss Sunday, and suffering one of his worst nights on the job, Swayman echoed that sentiment.
“He’s a great guy,” Swayman said. “A great teammate. Obviously, we don’t like losing. But, happy for him. He’s had success. Good for him.”