After the Boston Bruins lost Game 1 to the Carolina Hurricanes, 5-1, Monday night, there were calls for coach Bruce Cassidy to replace Linus Ullmark in net in Game 2 with Jeremy Swayman. The Bruins coach decided to go back to Ullmark and the result was basically the same, this time a 5-2 Boston loss.
Let’s be clear about one thing. The Bruins are returning home for Game 3 Friday night at the TD Garden down 2-0 in the best-of-seven-series is not because of their goaltending. Yes, they could have used one or two timely saves, but they have problems from defense, to the forwards, to the struggles of the power play, and to anything else you can come up with. Simply put, the Bruins are in a two-game deficit because they are being outplayed by the Hurricanes in every single facet of the game from their forwards to defense.
Thursday, Cassidy announced that Swayman would be in goal for Game 3, and the move is for one reason and one reason only, to try and jump-start his team on home ice.
Ullmark Not to Blame in First Two Games
The first two games are not the fault of Ullmark. The former Buffalo Sabres netminder made 29 saves Wednesday night in Game 2 after making 20 two nights earlier in Game 1. In two games, he was beaten on deflected shots, his teammates in their own defensive zone failing to clear pucks before goals were scored and a veteran defenseman made a bad decision to pinch at the offensive blue line at a bad time, which led to a 2-on-1 and a back-breaking goal. Of the goals given by Ullmark, the one that could be considered a “bad goal” or one that he “would like to have back” was a Vincent Trocheck third period goal in Game 1 where the Carolina forward banked the puck off of Ullmark’s back and into the net from behind the goal line.
“I think Linus [Ullmark] has been fine,” said Cassidy. “As I said after Game 1, I think we’ve got to do a better job at the other end, but if it ends up being one of those 2-1 games, we need a performance where we get that timely save and give the guys some life. That’s where we’re at right now. They’re scoring goals and they’re not giving very many up. There’s a little bit to do with both things.
“I’m not saying Ullmark’s the reason – he’s not – but Swayman’s gonna be in there. He’ll get his opportunity. We talked about maybe at some point using both, so it’s gonna be [Friday night]. Hopefully he’s up for the task.”
There were times in both games where Ullmark made some timely and even considered big saves to keep his team in the game, but they could have used one or two more timely saves. The problem was, that the Bruins struggled to get anything going offensively. They had shots blocked, bad decisions on some passes, and the worst stretch of the first two games happened in Game 2.
Carolina goalie Antti Raanta left in the first period after a collision with David Pastrnak. With No. 1 goalie Frederik Andersen, who played in 52 regular-season games, sidelined with a lower-body injury, Hurricanes coach Rod Brind’Amour turned to Pyotr Kochetkov and the 22-year-old made 30 saves in just his fourth NHL game of his career. He entered the game after the first 7:47 and after his entrance, the Bruins registered three shots on the net in the final 12 minutes of the first period, while allowing two for a two-goal deficit.
Yes, the Bruins were able to get two goals on Kochetkov, but the lack of offensive attack by the Black and Gold once he entered the game, failed to produce a lead, something the Bruins have never had on Carolina in five games this season between the regular season and playoffs. Ullmark and Swayman can’t leave the net and try and score goals. They’re paid to stop them, not score them.
Move to Swayman Feels Last Ditch Effort & Right Move
The Bruins need four wins in five games to advance past the Hurricanes. Easier said than done. Carolina has been the better team in both games in playoffs, aside from a strong start by Boston in both games in the first 10 minutes. With Hampus Lindholm likely out for the rest of the series after suffering what appeared to be a concussion, the Bruins defense is in dire straights with Mike Reilly taking his place in the lineup in front of Swayman.
Upfront, there are really no additions to the lineup at Cassidy’s disposal to jump-start the offense. What they have is what they got. If Chris Wagner is inserted into the lineup, it’s more for a physical presence as he is not going to supply the Bruins with what they need, offense and offense from anyone. Neither is Anton Blidh.
After Game 2, it was almost a given that Cassidy would go to Swayman as that is the move the veteran coach hopes can get his team going. He’s not going to the former University of Maine standout because of Ullmark’s play, he’s going to him for a spark. It’s a move everyone saw coming (and the right one given the circumstances), but it feels like it’s the last move that the Bruins have to get them going against a team that has had their number from the start of this season. If this doesn’t work, then it could very well be a short 2022 postseason for the Boston Bruins.
Scott Roche covers the Boston Bruins for The Hockey Writers. A frequent user of the Oxford comma. Scott has been a sports writer for 25 years for different sites and daily newspapers. Writing started out as a hobby, but it has become a passion for Scott over the years.