BOSTON (CBS) — The Bruins needed a win on Tuesday night, but the team also needed a feel-good story during a tough stretch in the season. They got both thanks to goaltender Dan Vladar, who earned a hard-fought win over the Pittsburgh Penguins in his first career start.
With Tuukka Rasks till banged up and Jaroslav Halak sitting on the second leg of a back-to-back, Bruce Cassidy had to turn to Boston’s third goalie between the pipes. The 23-year-old Vladar rewarded the head coach with some stellar play in net, turning away 34 of the 35 shots that he faced in a 2-1 Boston win.READ MORE: Patriots Mock Draft Roundup: Mac Jones Or Trey Lance In First Round?
Vladar was given a heads up over the weekend that he might be making his debut this week, and those extra days to mentally prep helped. But he obviously felt some pre-game nerves ahead of his NHL debut, and some butterflies when the puck finally dropped.
But as the game went on, the former third-round pick looked like he belonged with the pros. When the horn sounded and Vladar had earned his first career victory, he was on cloud nine.
“I’m just the happiest guy in the world right now,” Vladar told reporters via Zoom. “It was always my dream to play in the NHL. I got the opportunity and I won, so there hasn’t been a better day for me hockey-wise. I really appreciate that the coaches gave me a chance and I think it was a great team effort.”
His nerves were relieved a bit midway through the first quarter when he submitted an entry for “Save of the Year.” Pittsburgh’s Colton Sceviour had a wide open net when the puck ended up on his stick following a juicy rebound, but Vladar somehow reached his stick across the crease and turned away that golden opportunity for the Pens.
Dan Vladar denies Colton Sceviour. What a stop. pic.twitter.com/nzvNvu0W6O
— Conor Ryan (@ConorRyan_93) March 16, 2021
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— Boston Bruins (@NHLBruins) March 17, 2021
“Just a lucky save,” Vladar said casually. “It probably happens once in a hundred times. I don’t think you can really practice that, just big luck. Really happy that it happened today.”
Vladar said he received some incredible support from his teammates throughout the game, including endless words of wisdom from Halak on the bench.
“I was a little nervous, because when you get your first start like this you want to just show your best,” he said. “I know how I can play, but at the same time not every day that can be your best day. Just wanted to do my best to give us a chance to win.”
Vladar said his family back in Prague was glued to the TV to watch him do his thing on the NHL level. He called his girlfriend first after the game, and then called his parents, who despite it being 4 a.m. back home, were wide awake and just as excited as he was.
“They were celebrating. They’re probably going to be a little bit tired at work tomorrow,” he said. “It was a big event for our whole family. I felt like they were here with me.”
Vladar now has an NHL win to his name and a new trophy for his collection. He was given the game puck in the locker room, and has some big plans for the memento.MORE NEWS: Xander Bogaerts Shares His Thoughts On Liverpool, Super League: 'I Like It The Way It Is'
“I’m probably gonna sleep with it tonight,” he smiled. “I might buy some safe and just lock it there so that no one can steal it from me.”