Boston Bruins

The Bruins’ depth continues to be put to the test down the stretch. On defense, they face one of their toughest tests of the season, with their top-2 left-shot defensemen both out against the St. Louis Blues on Tuesday night at TD Garden.

Based on the practice lines at Warrior Ice Arena, the Bruins will slide Derek Forbort back into the No. 1 spot on the left side with Charlie McAvoy, and keep their second pairing the same with Mike Reilly and Brandon Carlo. It’s on the third pairing where the real challenge comes, as they will roll with Connor Clifton and Josh Brown – both right shots.

The lineup shuffling comes as both Hampus Lindholm (lower body) and Matt Grzelcyk miss the game due to injury. Grzelcyk injured his upper body during the Bruins’ 4-2 loss to the Washington Capitals on Sunday. Bruins head coach said after practice Tuesday that Grzelcyk is feeling “a little better,” but hopes to get him back for Thursday’s game against the Ottawa Senators, per Conor Ryan.

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Up front, David Pastrnak remains out with an upper body injury. Newcomer Marc McLaughlin will fill in for him on the second line. Everything is back in its right place on the third line with Trent Frederic back in the lineup, while on the fourth they will go with a trio of LW Nick Foligno, C Tomas Nosek, and RW Curtis Lazar.

The Bruins and Blues face off at 7 p.m. ET on Tuesday night. You can get the call of the game on 98.5 The Sports Hub, starting with pregame coverage at 6:30.

Matt Dolloff is a writer and podcaster for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Have a news tip, question, or comment for Matt? Yell at him on Twitter @mattdolloff and follow him on Instagram @realmattdolloff. You can also email him at mdolloff@985thesportshub.com.


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Bruins still unsure who will get net as Game 1 starter

  • MONTREAL, QC - MARCH 21: Jeremy Swayman #1 of the Boston Bruins tends net against the Montreal Canadiens in overtime at Centre Bell on March 21, 2022 in Montreal, Canada. The Boston Bruins defeated the Montreal Canadiens 3-2 in overtime. (Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images)

    MONTREAL, QC – MARCH 21: Jeremy Swayman #1 of the Boston Bruins tends net against the Montreal Canadiens in overtime at Centre Bell on March 21, 2022 in Montreal, Canada. (Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images)

    Given the call as the team’s Opening Night starter, and one of the hottest goaltenders on the planet upon his recall from the AHL earlier this year, the 23-year-old Swayman was at one point considered the no-brainer, easy-call for Game 1.

    But the first-year pro is going through a bit of a slump right now, with three wins and an .883 save percentage in his last six decisions. This downhill slide even came with the first early hook of Swayman’s career, as the Bruins lifted Swayman from their Mar. 29 head-to-head with the Leafs after Toronto hammered him for six goals on 25 shots through 40 minutes of action.

    “This is Jeremy’s first real kind of — since he’s been here, really — little bit of a blip here,” Cassidy said. “We’re going to allow him to play through it.”

    Now, the worry for some is that the proverbial rookie wall has come for Swayman. This is his first 82-game grind — keep in mind that he turned pro during Providence’s New England-only, shortened 2021 season and joined the Bruins during last year’s 56-game season — and he’s already played 39 games between Boston and Providence this season. His previous high: 35 for the University of Maine in 2018-19. And for whatever it’s worth, that ‘wall’ always seems to come harder for players jumping from the NCAA to the NHL.

    Assuming he’s not completely fried for 2022, which I must admit seems unlikely given the way they’ve managed him with rest this season and the preparation he put in over the offseason as the potential guy for the Bruins, Swayman should have plenty of opportunities to bounce back and potentially reclaim his status as the postseason starter favorite.

    And if there’s one thing that Swayman has shown in 2021-22, it’s that he can bounce back. In 12 decisions following a loss this season, Swayman is 8-3-1 with a devastating .941 save percentage. It takes a lot to completely rattle Swayman out of control.

  • Jan 12, 2022; Boston, Massachusetts, USA; Boston Bruins goaltender Linus Ullmark (35) gets set for the second period against the Montreal Canadiens at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

    Jan 12, 2022; Boston, Massachusetts, USA; Boston Bruins goaltender Linus Ullmark (35) gets set for the second period against the Montreal Canadiens at TD Garden. (Bob DeChiara/USA TODAY Sports)

    But Ullmark isn’t going to let Swayman reclaim his No. 1 status without a legitimate-but-friendly push.

    In net for eight games since Mar. 15, Ullmark has posted a 6-1-0 record and .932 save percentage.

    That .932 is third-best among a group of 30 goalies with at least eight appearances since then (only the Wild’s Cam Talbot at .933 and Colorado’s Darcy Kuemper at .947 have been better), and the one loss was a 27-of-30 performance in Washington where Ullmark did everything he could to keep the Bruins afloat.

    Ullmark has also thrived beyond the raw data over that nearly month-long sample, too, with the fifth-best goals saved above average (5.05) and third-best high-danger save percentage (.873) among the 33 goaltenders with at least 400 all-situation minutes played since Mar. 15.

    It’s quite a run, to say the least.

    “Rebound control’s better, recoveries from rebounds [are] more under control,” Cassidy said of Ullmark’s improvements. “I think at the start of the year, there was a lot of scrambling to get back into position. He’s a big guy, so it happens, but not nearly as much as before. He’s cleaner around the pucks around the front of the net in terms of getting them out of harm’s way, whether that’s paddled down or what not. Just some of the havoc that was happening at the start of the year has seemed to dissipated. Just more under control in every area.”

    Two potentially telling showings for Ullmark and the Bruins given their potential playoff opponent? Ullmark stopped all seven shots in a third-period relief performance against the Leafs in March and posted a 28-of-29 victory over the Lightning last Friday. The latter means much more than the former, but still, those are notable efforts.

  • Feb 1, 2022; Boston, Massachusetts, USA; Boston Bruins goaltender Linus Ullmark (35) and goaltender Jeremy Swayman (1) skates to the bench after a game against the Seattle Kraken at the TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports

    Feb 1, 2022; Boston, Massachusetts, USA; Boston Bruins goaltender Linus Ullmark (35) and goaltender Jeremy Swayman (1) skates to the bench after a game against the Seattle Kraken at the TD Garden. (Brian Fluharty/USA TODAY Sports)

    Honestly, trying to decide who’s going to be the playoff starter here on Apr. 12 is relatively pointless.

    It’s been a year of high highs and low lows for both goaltenders, and the Bruins have another 10 games on this rollercoaster to see where they land. That 10-game finish will come with some key and undeniably starter-determining games for the Bruins, with showdowns against the Blues and Penguins (two times each), Rangers, Panthers, and Maple Leafs on deck.

    For the Bruins, there seems to be a focus on riding Ullmark’s hot streak and getting Swayman right.

    Should that happen, the Bruins could be positioned for a postseason that features what their 72-game year has come with, and that’s a rotation of two goaltenders who have more often than not done their job when called upon.

    This is something that Cassidy has talked about before, but this is absolutely the ‘realest’ the idea has ever been, with Tuukka Rask no longer in the picture and the Bruins looking at that aforementioned true unknown without a lick of postseason starter experience in their goalie room.

    “Hopefully [Swayman] finds [his game] again and we go right down to the wire with good choices in that regard,” Cassidy said.

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