BRIGHTON, Mass. — First-year Boston head coach Jim Montgomery already has made a handful of decisions when it came to who to keep on the Bruins’ roster.
The next decision on the docket for Montgomery: Who will start in net for the Bruins in their season opener Wednesday night against the Washington Capitals at Capital One Arena?
Following practice at Warrior Ice Arena on Monday, Montgomery wouldn’t say if he would go with veteran Linus Ullmark or second-year pro Jeremy Swayman in net for the first game of the season. But Montgomery did reveal some insight into how he might deploy the two netminders during the upcoming campaign after Ullmark and Swayman split the duties right down the middle a season ago.
“The Bruins have had tremendous success both ways,” Montgomery said. “I think a lot of credit has got to go to (Bruins goalie coach) Bob Essensa, who has done a great job developing relationships with the goalies, making sure that the Bruins get excellent goaltending throughout the regular season to be able to get the opportunity to get in the playoffs.
“I think everyone would say ideally you have a No. 1 (goalie) by the time you get into the playoffs, and after the trade deadline. And that’s up to one of those goaltenders to emerge ahead of the other. But in today’s NHL, to have success in the regular season, with as many three (games) in four (days) as you have, you have to have two goalies to do the job night in and night out.”
Despite both making 41 appearances last season, the Bruins turned things over to Swayman in the playoffs after Ullmark surrendered eight goals in the first two games of the opening-round series against the Carolina Hurricanes. Aside from a Game 5 stinker in that series, Swayman looked poised on the elevated stage, posting a 2.63 GAA and a .911 save percentage in his five starts.
That experience and performance might give Swayman the edge heading into this season. Preseason action didn’t reveal if Swayman or Ullmark had the upper hand, though, with each getting two starts.
It appears Montgomery will continue to have the two share the responsibility this season, at least until one of them firmly situates themselves as the go-to goalie.