Bruins’ Starting Goalie for Playoffs Comes ‘With A Great Asterisk’

Goaltenders Linus Ullmark #35 and Jeremy Swayman #1 of the Boston Bruins

Getty Goaltenders Linus Ullmark #35 and Jeremy Swayman #1 of the Boston Bruins

There is no NHL team like the Boston Bruins. Not at least when it comes to their rotational crease.

The Bruins, who have employed a two-goalie strategy for the full regular season with netminders Linus Ullmark and Jeremy Swayman, will soon have to decide who to go with once the Stanley Cup Playoffs get going.

Alternatively, they can still use a two-goalie rotation as the NHL won’t prevent them from doing so. That, however, seems unlikely as it’s not an oft-used strategy during that high-stakes part of the season.

Bruins beat reporter Fluto Shinzawa of The Athletic addressed that question in an article posted on Tuesday, April 2.

“The answer, in all likelihood, won’t become clear until after the April 16 regular-season finale against the Ottawa Senators,” Shinzawa wrote. “For now, the Bruins are planning to rotate Linus Ullmark and Jeremy Swayman for the rest of the regular-season run.”

Since the article was published on Tuesday, and entering Friday’s slate of games, the Bruins have played two games and in that span, Boston has kept the rotation going. Ullmark got the start against the Nashville Predators and Swayman did so against the Carolina Hurricanes on Thursday.

“Based on current trends,” Shinzawa wrote, “Ullmark has Game 1 locked up—albeit with a big asterisk.”

Bruins Are Expected to Start Linus Ullmark in the Playoffs

It’s hard to envision the Bruins using a two-goalie strategy through their full, upcoming postseason run. If they end that strategy, Ullmark seems to have a leg up on Swayman, per Shinzawa.

That, however, is still to be determined.

In Shinzawa’s eyes, “Ullmark’s performance gives him the upper hand” entering the home stretch of the regular season.

“Since the trade deadline, when he learned he would not be moved, Ullmark has a [.950] save percentage over [six] starts,” Shinzawa analyzed. “Swayman, meanwhile, has an [.879] save percentage over his past [six] starts.”

The final decision, however, might come down to that “big asterisk.”

Will the Bruins Choose Recent Production or Past Performance?

Shinzawa explains in his article that Boston’s decision might ultimately depend on the franchise they face in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

As things stand entering Friday, April 5, Boston would match up against the Tampa Bay Lightning in the first round of the playoffs. The Bruins are the No. 1 seed in the Atlantic Division and the Lightning own the No. 1 wild-card berth.

The Bruins, however, might end up facing the Toronto Maple Leafs in Round 1. If that’s the case, the Bruins might entertain a different approach to their net.

“Swayman sparkled in the Bruins’ past two games against the Leafs,” wrote Shinzawa. “He stopped 32 shots in the Bruins’ 4-1 win on March 4. Three nights later, Swayman made 28 saves in another 4-1 win. He’s owned the Leafs.

“If the two Atlantic Division rivals line up in the first round, Swayman’s head-to-head performance could put him in net for Game 1.”

The Bruins and the Leafs aren’t scheduled to face each other again this season, and the former swept the regular-season series against Toronto with a perfect 4-0 record in games played against the Atlantic division foes.

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