Bruins’ Goalie Rotation Backfires Misserably in the Playoffs

Afew minutes before Game 2 of the first-round series between the Boston Bruins and the Toronto Maple Leafs, Linus Ullmark took the ice to warm up ahead of puck drop at TD Garden. The goalie got the start over teammate Jeremy Swayman, keeping the Bruins rotation intact… but their series not so much.

Bruins G Linus Ullmark fined $5K for high-sticking | Reuters

The Bruins lost 3-2 to the Leafs on Monday, April 22, entering Game 3 away from Boston looking at a series tied at one win apiece and with more questions than ever before about what to do next on goal.

Boston took the lead, gave it up, retook it, and then allowed Toronto to score two unanswered goals in their 3-2 loss to the Leafs that brought the series to a 1-1 tie.

Now, the two teams fly north of the border to play against each other a couple of times in Canada following Auston Matthews‘ game-winning goal on Monday to swing the series in favor of Toronto.

“There’s a reason he scored 69,” Ullmark told reporters after the game, per Amelie Benjamin of “Try to get him next time.”

The story of the game, outside of William Nylander’s mysterious absence, was Ullmark getting the start on goal for the Bruins after Swayman stopped 35 of 36 shots in Game 1 to help the Bruins earn a 5-1 win.

With that victory, Swayman kept his 4-0-0 record against Toronto this season intact, but that wasn’t enough to convince Boston’s head coach Jim Montgomery to ditch his season-long goalie rotation.

Boston Bruins Alternate Goalies, Strategy Doesn’t Pay Back

Moving on from Swayman after he had a masterful outing in Game 1 wasn’t that surprising. Not considering how the Bruins franchise has operated for the past two years when they have been using a rotation of netminders in the last two regular seasons.

The last time Ullmark started a postseason contest, in Game 6 of the 2023 first-round series against the Florida Panthers, he surrendered 6 goals forcing coach Montgomery to go with Swayman in Game 7 in a too-little-too-late type of move.

Truth be told, Ullmark couldn’t have done much more on Monday. The goalie, starting for the first time in the playoffs this season, stopped 30 shots while allowing 3 goals to the Leafs on the other three he saw.

“I’m very grateful every time I get the opportunity to go out there and play,” Ullmark told reporters after the game, via NESN’s Greg Dudek. “It’s the most fun time in the year. So I don’t take anything for granted.

“I don’t see that anyone should have more starts than the other. It’s all about compete and performance. Also, it’s all about wins.”

That final word is what should worry the Bruins the most after they dropped Game 2, one they played home and the last one at TD Garden until both teams return to Boston for a Game 5 showdown.

“No Second Guesses” About Starting Ullmark Overs Swayman

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Speaking to reporters after the game, Bruins head coach sounded pleased with Ullmark’s overall performance and didn’t question his decision to start him instead of keeping Swayman in net following the Game 1 win.

“No second guesses,” coach Montgomery told reporters in his postgame press conference on April 22. “He was terrific. He made multiple big-time saves. It’s the strength of our team. Both of them played really well.

“We only scored two goals.”

Similarly to what Ullmark did with his statement, Montgomery left the most important part for the final part of his.

Bruins’ Offense Must Level Up So It Doesn’t Matter Who Starts on Net

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The Game 2 loss cannot be blamed on the goalie decision, but rather on an inoperant Bruins offense that failed to put the puck inside Toronto’s net as easily as they did in Game 1.

Third-line center Morgan Geekie scored Boston’s opening goal less than 10 minutes into the first period. David Pastrnak scored the second with eight seconds to go in the first frame following a faceoff battle won by the same Geekie. After that, the Bruins went radio silent and the scoreboard only moved in Toronto’s box.

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