Bruins’ Ullmark Is Still an Important Part of Goaltending Tandem

With less than a month before the Boston Bruins’ opening night against the Washington Capitals, the buzz around the new season continues to grow. Players have begun reporting for captain’s practices, roster speculation has continued, and the coaching staff has begun their media tour outlining systems and plans for the season. Amid this buzz, one name that has been flying under the radar is goaltender Linus Ullmark.

Coming off a strong regular season, Ullmark stumbled in last year’s playoffs, ultimately ceding the net to Jeremy Swayman for the back half of the series against the Carolina Hurricanes. While this move had a mild resemblance to a changing of the guard, with Swayman taking the top spot, Ullmark will still be a valuable member of this team who should not be relegated to true backup status in 2022-23.

Bruins Should Utilize a Goalie Tandem

At the time of his signing prior to last season, some Bruins fans were apprehensive of Ullmark given his somewhat pedestrian numbers with the Buffalo Sabres. His performance in his first season in Boston should silence any of those remaining critics. With a goals-against average of 2.45 and a save percentage of .917, he allowed the Bruins to remain competitive in every game that he played. Those numbers were strong on their own, but when factoring in that he struggled out of the gate while acclimating to a new team and new city, those numbers become even more impressive.

Related: NHL Goalie Report: 2022-23 Atlantic Division Preview

The problem, if you want to call it a problem, is that Ullmark’s performance was matched through the stretch run of the season by Swayman. Although Ullmark pulled ahead to be the starter going into the playoffs, the pendulum swung back to Swayman after the first two games. The back-and-forth nature of this relationship meant each goalie played exactly half of the Bruins’ regular season games last season.

Linus Ullmark, Boston Bruins
Linus Ullmark, Boston Bruins (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Based on how well each goalie handled that rotation last season, I would expect head coach Jim Montgomery to utilize a similar structure this season. Although Swayman is the up-and-coming ace the Bruins will look to build around, there should not be a rush to transition from a tandem back to a clear number-one and number-two netminder. By managing the workload of both goalies, each player should remain healthier and keep their legs fresh, something that will be important over the full 82-game slate.

Ullmark is a Safety Net for Swayman

On top of the benefits an Ullmark-Swayman tandem present, Ullmark also has the experience of being a young goalie who was given the reins of a team in Buffalo and working through bumps in the road. Fans are certainly not hoping for Swayman to struggle in his second full year, but it is certainly a possibility. Should this happen, Ullmark can help mentor him and provide experiences from his own career in a similar situation, although on a team with a wildly different outlook on expectations for the season.

Jeremy Swayman, Boston Bruins
Jeremy Swayman, Boston Bruins (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

On top of this mentorship, Ullmark also is someone who can carry more of the load in the event Swayman struggles. Although the plan may be close to a 50-50 split of playing time, if Swayman stumbles and needs some time off to correct some errors, Ullmark is more than capable of playing multiple games in a row for the Bruins. Having a goalie of his ability to match with Swayman should relieve some stress about having to fully depend on a second-year netminder.

With Ullmark in tandem with Swayman, the Bruins can continue to develop him and hope he can establish himself as a starter organically, without concern if that development path does not fully finalize itself this year. Ullmark will continue to provide strong goaltending and continue to push Swayman to improve his game, or else he will lose some games in net based on performance.

Looking Forward to the Bruins’ Season

Going into training camp there may be some questions about who is the 1A and who is the 1B in the goalie room, but I would imagine most of the Bruins staff would hope to view Swayman as 1A and the opening night starter. If for whatever reason Swayman does not seize this opportunity, Ullmark is more than ready to take on that role and backstop the team.

The Bruins will need their goalies to play at a high level, especially early in the season as the team adjusts to Montgomery’s style of play and awaits the return of Brad Marchand, Charlie McAvoy, and Matt Grzelcyk from the injured reserve. Both Swayman and Ullmark will be asked to steal a game or two for the Bruins early on. Their performance will go a long way towards indicating how competitive the Bruins will be this year.

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