NEWARK - The Bruins enter this season with one of the most dependable goaltending duos in the National Hockey League. With 984 games between them, Tuukka Rask and Jaroslav Halak provide the Black & Gold with a wealth of experience between the pipes that clearly paid dividends last spring.
On the flip side, Boston's goaltending tandem for its preseason opener in New Jersey on Monday night couldn't quite boast the same credentials. Kyle Keyser, 20, and Dan Vladar, 23, entered the exhibition contest with a combined 43 games of professional experiences - all courtesy of Vladar, who has split time between Providence and Atlanta.
Despite their lack of NHL service time, the duo acquitted themselves quite well during a 4-3 overtime loss to the Devils at Prudential Center. Keyser stopped all 17 shots he faced over 31 minutes, while Vladar made nine saves, including a breakaway denial on the power play and a sprawling, cross-crease stop, both in the second period.
"Keyser obviously didn't allow a goal, was excellent," said Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy. "He's very athletic in there, engaged playing the puck. Vladdy made some nice saves, too. The goals we gave up were tough for the goaltenders. They were high-end goals, so he made some big saves as well. Unfortunately, a few more got by him."
Video: Cassidy addressed media after 3-2 loss to Devils
Keyser was making just his second professional start - he started one playoff game for Providence last spring - after spending the last four seasons in the OHL. The 20-year-old undrafted free agent played 47 games for Oshawa in 2018-19, posting a 32-8-0 record with a 2.75 goals against average and .915 save percentage, before reporting to the P-Bruins in April.
"It went good," said Keyser, whose best save came when he stoned Miles Wood on a shorthanded breakaway in the first period. "Obviously, I wish we won the game. From a personal perspective, I thought I felt good out there. The guys made it easy for me to transition into the game and get comfortable clearing guys out of lanes and really just letting me see the puck.
"Obviously not the end goal - we wanted to win and go home with a good feeling, but five more preseason games to clean things up and get better."
The 6-foot-2, 175-pound Florida native credited Boston's defense corps - which included veterans Steven Kampfer and Alex Petrovic - for making things easy for him.
"The guys did a real good job for me," said Keyser, who spent time with Boston as a member of the Black Aces during last spring's run to the Stanley Cup Final. "I saw the puck real easy. There were just a lot of situations where it could have gotten hairy, but nice to have a veteran presence back on D to calm things down for me. It made it easier for me, so I'm thankful that I had that."
Video: Steen, Keyser, Andersson speak after 3-2 loss
Oskar Steen landed a team-high four shots on goal in 17:12 of ice time (second most among forwards behind Chris Wagner), while notching a nifty tally to open the scoring at 5:24 of the second period. The 21-year-old Sweden native, playing alongside Trent Frederic and Jakub Lauko, cruised in from the neutral zone - one on three - and snapped a wrister by Devils goalie Cory Schneider blocker side.
"I got the puck from Lauko and just had some ice and skated with it," said Steen. "I managed to get a pretty good shot on the goal…that's very big for my confidence. It's hard to play on the small rinks the first time. I think it went better as the game went on. I think I maybe do a better game next game…happy that it went in, but not fun to lose."
The 5-foot-9, 188-pound former sixth-round pick will be making the transition to North America this fall after spending the last five seasons playing in his native Sweden. He had a career high 37 points (17 goals, 20 assists) in 46 games last season for Farjestads.
"I just liked the play he made. He kind of separated in the neutral zone. He took the ice in front of him and then attacked," Cassidy said of Steen's goal. "Young guys come in - and he's a good example, his first go-around in North America, at least at the NHL level - a little bit tentative early on and you've got to kind of prod them to just play hockey and get them to forget about who they're playing against. I think he did a lot more of that as the game went on."
Studnicka Ties It
The Bruins forced overtime when Jack Studnicka buried a Paul Carey feed from the slot with 50 seconds to play. Studnicka, like Steen and Keyser, will be transitioning to the professional level full time this fall after spending most of the past four years in the OHL.
A second-round pick in 2017, the 20-year-old tallied 83 points (36 goals, 47 assists) in 60 games between Oshawa and Niagara last season. Despite his offensive talents, Cassidy noted that the Ontario native has work to do in the other areas of his game, while also commending the youngster's intensity.
"Typically, he is [engaged]. I think his compete level is good," said Cassidy. "He scored a nice goal for us. The problem with Jack is valuing the puck. The soft plays, you just don't get away with them, you can't throw pucks away. It's just too hard to get it back.
"That would be my chat with him tomorrow. This is a man's league. You've got to be hard on the puck and put it in good spots to get it back or protect it. All in all, a good start for him."
Back in Action
In his first game since breaking his right forearm in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Final, Chris Wagner - who along with Kampfer were the only players from the postseason roster to suit up on Monday night - tallied a silky backhand goal to tie the game, 2-2, at 2:39 of the third period. The goal, just 2:10 after New Jersey took the lead, came after some strong work along the boards from Anton Blidh, who corralled the puck and delivered a spin-around feed to Wagner at the top of the crease. Following the game, Wagner (17:34 TOI) said he felt no ill effects from the arm injury that sidelined him for the Stanley Cup Final.
Kampfer and Urho Vaakanainen, who led the Bruins in ice time (24:53), also added assists.
Devils forward Jack Hughes, the No. 1 overall pick in June's NHL Draft, collected two goals, including the winner 41 seconds into overtime.