Boston Bruins

Mar 21, 2022; Montreal, Quebec, CAN; Boston Bruins goaltenders Linus Ullmark (35) and Jeremy Swayman (1) celebrate the victory over the Montreal Canadiens in overtime at the Bell Centre. Mandatory Credit: Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports

The Boston Bruins have something good cooking with goaltenders Jeremy Swayman and Linus Ullmark.

A consistent one-two for the Bruins throughout the year in the sense that the Bruins have had at least one of them playing at a high level at any point throughout the regular season, it’s a tandem that’s worked. So much so that the Bruins are unsure who will get the call when the Bruins drop the puck on the 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs as early as May 2nd.

“Oh yeah,” Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy said last Friday when asked if the competition between the two is still open. “I think we’ve relied on both of them. They’ve both played well for the most part.

“We’re still — I guess if you’re asking who would be the guy for the playoffs — we’re undecided right now.”

No matter their pick, someone’s making their first career playoff start when the Black and Gold start their quest for a Stanley Cup next month. It’s as true an unknown as the Bruins have tried to navigate in their crease since Cassidy took over as the team’s head coach in 2017.

But just where will the Bruins land?

  • 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.