Sure, John Muse is pretty excited right now. He’s heading over to the practice rink each morning and donning a sweater that reads “Bruins” on it. For a young man who grew up in Falmouth, dreaming of one day wearing the spoked B on his chest, it doesn’t get much better than that.
Muse, who turned 25 last month, is on a temporary contract with the Providence Bruins, signed to a professional tryout deal last week. His aim is to impress the Boston and Providence brass and earn a spot on the American Hockey League roster for the coming season, which is just a few weeks away.
Having been playing professional hockey, mostly in the minor leagues, since graduating from Boston College in 2010, the netminder is approaching his situation realistically. He knows that his chances of making the club are iffy, but that is not about to keep him from making it as hard as possible for the organization to send him back to the East Coast Hockey League.
“Honestly, I’m not sure what (the team is) going to do. In the meantime, I’m going to work as hard as I can and show that I belong,” he said. “I think that I’m confident in myself and my ability, and I know that I can play.”
Last year, at the end of the regular season, Muse got his first taste of NHL life when he was called up from Charlotte to the Carolina Hurricanes for the last couple of games of the season. He never got into a game for Carolina, but said that having that experience benefited him in a lot of ways. He said he knows what it takes to prepare at that level and he hopes to have another chance one day to get back to the biggest rinks in the world.
“That was a really good experience. I think being up there, and seeing how it’s done, was definitely a good learning experience,” he said.
Muse has shown that he’s definitely the type of goaltender who plays at his best when his team needs him to most. He is one of the most decorated college goalies of all time, winning two national championships with the BC Eagles. He also led the Florida Everblades to the 2011 ECHL Kelly Cup championship, posting a 1.78 goals against average and .938 save percentage in the postseason.
It all really will come down to a couple of factors. One is that Muse will have to show he belongs with the limited amount of time that he has to impress the front office of the Bruins. Also, the Bruins will have to decide how they want to handle their goaltender situation, both at the major and minor league levels.
The only guarantee right now is that Tuukka Rask is the No. 1 goalie in the system and will see the majority of the playing time with the big club. Chad Johnson, who played four games with the Phoenix Coyotes last year and most of the season with the Portland Pirates is one of the contenders to stick with the Boston team. The other keeper in the running for the backup spot is Niklas Svedberg, who was the top keeper in Providence last year.
Last year’s No. 1 pick by the Bruins, Malcolm Subban, could be sent back to junior hockey for another year of seasoning, or he could end up in Providence, where he is currently practicing with Muse. In addition, the Providence Bruins have Adam Morrison on their preseason roster, though he is currently nursing an injury.
That’s a big crowd looking to play in the crease, and Muse’s goal is to be one of the keepers who is asked to stick around. He said that he plans on skating hard into the competition and let the situation sort itself out.
“It all depends on what they want to do. That part is out of my hands; all I can do is play the best that I can and keep working hard,” he said. “Right now, I’m just going to the rink in the morning and practicing every day and I’ll keep doing that until they tell me not to...it’s based on what the Bruins want to do.”
He said that having his future up in the air comes with the job.
“I think that I’ve gotten used to it. It kind of happens to almost every player. I don’t really think of it in those terms, I just take it one day at a time. If I get let go, I get let go. That’s the business part of it.”
“I knew coming in that (pro hockey) wasn’t going to be easy every year,” he said. “I’m still playing a kids’ game though, and it’s a game I’ve loved since I was a little kid. I definitely love what I do.”
Should he be released, Muse’s ECHL rights are currently held by the Fort Wayne Comets. He signed with them last month and he said he’d be happy to go to Indiana if he has to.
For now, though, it’s all about trying to stop as much vulcanized rubber as possible and make the Bruins organization want to keep the hometown kid around for the season. “I like it here. I’ve always been a Bruins fan and getting to play with the AHL team has been awesome. My parents are definitely excited about the idea of me playing so close to home,” he said.
Muse is scheduled to don that Bruins sweater tomorrow in Providence. The minor league team hosts Worcester at 3:05 PM, with a fan festival being held at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center starting at 1 PM.