Linus Ullmark has made a case to be the Bruins’ No. 1 goalie.
It’s a small sample size, but Ullmark stood on his head in Boston’s 2-1 shootout win over the Anaheim Ducks on Thursday night at TD Garden. The goalie made 30 stops and was unbeatable in overtime and the shootout.
The Ducks had their chances and looked as if they were going to come away with two points, but a huge save on a Ryan Strome breakaway ended that threat.
Ullmark kept the Bruins in it, and he’s beginning to look like a No. 1 goalie.
“Terrific,” head coach Jim Montgomery told reporters of Ullmark’s outing. “Gave us an opportunity to get two points. I think he’s done it every night he’s been in the net. He’s had a great start to the year.”
Montgomery said during the preseason the Bruins would have liked a clearcut No. 1 to emerge after the trade deadline leading into the playoffs and that it was up to Ullmark and Jeremy Swayman to settle the debate on the ice.
Swayman has struggled in his first two starts and was pulled after two periods in the Bruins’ 7-5 loss to the Ottawa Senators. Much like Ullmark, we only have a small sample size and it’s too soon to tell if Swayman is going through a sophomore slump or just off to a slow start.
Still, Ullmar’s play has made him the early frontrunner. He’s 3-0-0 with a .938 save percentage and 2.06 goals-against average, while Swayman has posted an .816 save percentage in two starts.
Montgomery didn’t name a starter for Saturday’s matinee against the Minnesota Wild, but it might be wise for the Bruins to ride the hot goalie.
“It’s going to be hard to go away from him, but the things we have to consider are the 36 hours,” Montgomery told reporters. “He spent a lot of time in the crouch because, unfortunately, we defended more than we would’ve liked.”
The Wild are 1-3-0 and have had a rough start to their 2022-23 season, so putting Swayman in against a struggling team may be exactly what he needs to get back on track.
While it’s important to get points at the beginning of the season, it’s just as important to make sure Swayman doesn’t lose any confidence. He’s always been good about bouncing back and not getting in his head too much. There’s no reason to think that won’t be the case this season, too, and getting Swayman on the right track will be crucial for the Bruins’ success not just in the regular season, but the playoffs if they make it that far.
We’ve seen the importance of having a reliable backup goalie so the starter can get adequate rest ahead of the playoffs. Tuukka Rask often was overused in the regular season due to his reliability and the Bruins’ need for points, but when Jaroslav Halak came along, Rask didn’t have to shoulder a majority of the games.
It’s still early enough in the season for Swayman to straighten out what isn’t working and there’s no reason to start panicking over him just yet. But his struggles through his two starts only have highlighted just how dominant Ullmark has been with the Bruins.
There’s still plenty of hockey left to be played, but if Ullmark continues this kind of consistency, the Bruins will be in good shape.