The Bruins remain unsure who will get the nod in goal for Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, between Jeremy Swayman and Linus Ullmark. And Game 2, Game 3, and beyond. Could the answer be a little column A, little column B?
They ended up needing both on Thursday night alone, when Ullmark started and stopped all eight shots in the first period before exiting the Bruins’ 3-2 loss to the Ottawa Senators. Swayman entered in relief and allowed three goals on 24 shots, but did stop 11-of-12 at 5-on-5 and made nine saves in the third period, including four on high-danger scoring chances.
Thursday’s third period may be the spark Swayman needed to get back on track, and it may have to be. But if both goalies are healthy at the start of the playoffs, is there a chance both would get to play?
That’s what 98.5 The Sports Hub’s own Ty Anderson seems to believe, based on his conversation with me in the newest episode of the Sports Hub Underground podcast. You can listen to the full episode below, but the goaltending discussion starts around 36-minute mark. Ullmark has significantly outplayed Swayman for the Bruins as of late. If he gets back on the ice soon, and if Swayman can’t turn it around down the stretch, Bruce Cassidy will have an interesting decision to make in Game 1.
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“I think if I was making that call right now, it’s Ullmark,” Ty said Wednesday, prior to the Ottawa game. “Swayman’s gonna get a chance here to get his game right. They’ve got some key games here … so, you’re gonna have games where you have to go back to Swayman.”
Ullmark left the game after an Erik Brännström shot hit him in a relatively unprotected area of his helmet. He told team trainers he wasn’t feeling good, so he essentially pulled himself from the game, rather than by a concussion spotter. So, for now, Ullmark’s status is shrouded in mystery.
But what if both goalies are healthy and playing well by the time the playoffs start in a couple of weeks? It may not be so simple as to run Swayman every night. The 23-year-old has already compiled the biggest single-season workload of his professional career. He’s up to 41 combined games between Boston and Providence in the 2021-22 season. He never started more than 35 games at the University of Maine. How he looks in start No. 50, 55, etc. is uncharted territory.
Ty believes the Bruins would seriously consider more of a platoon-type system than roll with an undisputed every-game starter – and that they’ve thought about it before.
“I’m curious to see what kind of playoff goalies both these guys are,” Ty said. “I think now more than ever, with Tuukka [Rask] being gone … there’s always been that urge, or that curiosity, to try two goalies in the playoffs. They thought about it with [Anton] Khudobin, they thought about it with [Jaroslav] Halak. This might be the time that they actually do it, because they have two guys that they’re like, ‘We’ve got to find out what we have here, one guy’s the future, the other guy’s here for four years, so we’ve got to know what they look like in the playoffs.'”
If Ullmark is dealing with a long-term injury, this whole idea may be rendered moot. But it continues to look more like the Bruins will need Ullmark back as badly as any other injured player in their lineup.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.