Boston Bruins Jeremy Smith Should Win Backup Job


Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

The Boston Bruins goaltender competition is down to Jonas Gustavsson and Jeremy Smith. With the experience that Gustavsson has in the NHL, the job seemed to be his to lose from the start of training camp. Although he performed decently, he still might not be offered a contract to be the Bruins backup goaltender though, as Jeremy Smith has been equally as solid. 

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  • In Gustavsson’s last preseason start, he allowed three goals stopping 24 of 27 shots, which equates to a save percentage of .889. The response to Gustavsson’s three-goal game wasn’t a bad one by coach Claude Julien, who said: “He was good tonight,” he went on to say, “When I looked at the first goal, he’s got two Rangers out in front of him and it goes through. He can’t see much. The other goal at the end, the break down with the pull and drag, with the third goal there – I don’t think he had much of an opportunity. I thought he played well.” Julien wasn’t wrong, as Gustavsson couldn’t really be blamed for some of the goals that were scored, but they still might have cost him a job with the Bruins. Smith’s last preseason action was a little better than Gustavsson’s, although he didn’t play a full game. Smith played in the third period against the Washington Capitals on Friday and allowing only one goal through the period as well as the five minutes of overtime (which was guaranteed regardless of the outcome in regulation). Smith saved 13 of 14 shots, which equates to a .928 save percentage.

    One factor that might play a big role in determining who earns the backup goaltender job is the fact that Providence is already log-jammed with goalie talent. Both Malcolm Subban and Zane McIntyre are currently projected to get significant playing time for the Providence Bruins, and that might make sending Jeremy Smith down to the AHL seem like a horrible idea. Even though Gustavsson is well-suited for the backup role in Boston due to his experience, he currently does not have a contract, meaning the Bruins can cut ties with him and use Smith, who seems equally as well-suited to backup Tuukka Rask this season. Claude Julien is aware of the tough choices ahead and summed it up by simply saying “So we’ve got some tough decisions to make, here, between those two guys.”. 

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    The regular season starts soon, and the Bruins will have to decide quickly on which goaltender earns the backup job. Jeremy Smith has shown that he is capable of winning games in the AHL, posting a 22-11-5 record with a 2.05 GAA and .933 save percentage in 2014-15. Smith’s preseason resume, albeit short, has shown that he is more than capable of playing against NHL talent and can be relied on to keep his team in the game. The NHL preseason and the AHL are both far-cries from what the NHL regular season will be, but the preparation remains the same, and clearly the Bruins coaching staff sees something with Smith for him to last this long. Whether it be his talent level, his work-ethic, his drive to compete, or just a combination of the three, the coaches clearly believe Smith has earned a job in the NHL for the 2015-16 season. Whether or not he earned it more than Gustavsson is still left to be determined, however.

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    Jonas Gustavsson would love to win the job, but also knows that anything can happen in professional sports. “I mean, you can always do better,” said Gustavsson after his final preseason game. “That’s the mentality I have, at least. That’s what drives me and makes me want to get better.”. All Gustavsson can do is wait as the decision looms over his and Smith’s heads. “It’s not up to me to make those decisions,” Gustavsson said. “I’m just trying to do whatever I can out there when I get the chance. That’s all I can do. So far, I feel like I’ve been trying to prepare myself as good as possible for practices and games, and that’s all I can do.”

    While Gustavsson might not win the job with the Bruins, his strong play in the preseason might very well earn him a job elsewhere. There are still a few teams looking to secure a solid backup goaltender and Gustavsson could be the perfect fit. Regardless of who wins the backup job in Boston this season, Tuukka Rask should be relieved knowing he will be backed up by a capable goaltender who can provide sufficient relief this season.

    Follow Brandon Share-Cohen on Twitter @BShareCohen to discuss all things Bruins and sports