Why the Bruins continued their goalie rotation in the playoffs: ‘No second guesses’

EditorLast Update :
Why the Bruins continued their goalie rotation in the playoffs: ‘No second guesses’

BOSTON — On Sunday, one day after his partner stopped 35 shots in the Boston Bruins’ Game 1 win, Linus Ullmark learned the news he hoped to hear. He would start Game 2 against the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Ullmark did his part to confirm his bosses’ faith with a 30-save performance in the Bruins’ 3-2 Game 2 loss. Ullmark’s teammates did not elevate to his level.

“I’m very grateful every time I get the opportunity to go out there and play,” said Ullmark. “It’s the most fun time in the year. So I don’t take anything for granted. I don’t see that anyone should have more starts than the other. It’s all about compete and performance. Also, it’s all about wins.”

To the last point, Jeremy Swayman earned the victory in Game 1. He was fast, athletic and anticipatory. It was his fourth straight win over the Leafs this season. Under ordinary circumstances, Swayman would have been back in net on Monday.

But the Bruins are attempting something extraordinary. They are rolling out a pure goaltending rotation in the playoffs, just like they did for the last 26 games of the regular season.

Time will tell whether their venture will pay off.

“No second guesses,” coach Jim Montgomery said of playing Ullmark over Swayman. “He was terrific. He made multiple big-time saves. It’s the strength of our team. Both of them played really well. We only scored two goals.”

Ullmark’s glove was rocking. In the second period, with the Bruins up 2-1, Calle Järnkrok set up in the slot and caught Matthew Knies’ pass from behind the net. Järnkrok hammered a one-timer that Ullmark snatched before it crossed the line.

Referees Jean Hebert and Garrett Rank went to video review to make sure Järnkrok hadn’t scored. Ullmark’s positioning made him certain the puck didn’t go in. He was down in reverse vertical-horizontal, using a toe lock on the strong-side post to seal off every opening. Ullmark leaped forward with his glove outstretched to make his point clear.

“I was pretty sure the puck wasn’t all the way in or even a little bit in,” said Ullmark. “Just because of how I had my post integration. So I felt very comfortable. So I was a little surprised. But I’m not surprised they actually checked it just to make sure.”

Ullmark was just as good in the third. He peeked through traffic to get in front of Järnkrok’s long-distance shot through traffic. Järnkrok’s snapper thudded off one stick and another leg before settling onto the blade of Nick Robertson. Robertson pounded the puck on goal, but Ullmark powered to his left, flashed his glove and punched the puck away from the net.

Ullmark, however, couldn’t do enough to deny Auston Matthews on the winning goal. Max Domi, from the right-side wall in the defensive zone, aired a cross-ice pass to Toronto’s offensive blue line. Matthews slipped behind Charlie McAvoy, settled Domi’s pass and raced in on goal. After several dekes, Matthews went to his forehand to tuck the puck past Ullmark’s right pad.

“There’s a reason he scored 69,” Ullmark said of the NHL’s top finisher. “Try to get him next time.”

The Bruins did not have a similar level of scoring touch. Brad Marchand came up empty on a team-leading five shots. The fourth line, which struck for Game 1’s opening goal, had just two shots. Danton Heinen and Trent Frederic didn’t put a single puck on net. The Bruins were expected to score 1.86 five-on-five goals, per Natural Stat Trick. They require more offensive juice against the Leafs, who are not known for their defending or goaltending.

“I think it’s a function of their defending well,” said Montgomery. “It’s also a function of we’re not playing fast enough. We’re slow in transition. Which is not allowing us to possess pucks. And it’s not allowing us to get it on the forecheck.”

The Bruins have an optional practice on Tuesday before leaving for Toronto. Game 3 belongs to Swayman. He is optimized for enemy ice by resting in Game 2.

But the Bruins need to give Swayman more offensive reinforcement than they provided Ullmark. They’ve given the Leafs life.

(Photo: Rich Gagnon / Getty Images)