June 25, 2024

Bruins still mulling Game 2 goalie despite Jeremy Swayman gem

BOSTON — The Bruins aren’t committing to a goaltender for Game 2 of their first-round Stanley Cup playoff series against the Toronto Maple Leafs on Monday even after Jeremy Swayman’s dominant 35-save performance in Saturday’s 5-1 victory in Game 1.

Boston has used Swayman and Linus Ullmark in strict rotation during the regular season, and Boston’s coach Jim Montgomery may keep that pattern alive in the playoffs, too.

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“We’re still contemplating that and [deciding] if that’s the way to go,” said Montgomery following the Bruins’ team meeting Sunday.

Montgomery tapped Swayman over Ullmark for Game 1 because Swayman “hadn’t had the opportunity to start a series before in the last couple years … he did really well.”

That wasn’t surprising given Swayman’s excellence against Toronto in the regular season, posting a 3-0-0 record and .959 SV% in those previous outings. Swayman held the Leafs mostly at bay again in a near-flawless performance Saturday, with  David Kampf’s third-period strike the only blemish — when Boston was already leading 4-0.

If Swayman hasn’t officially gotten the call yet for Monday’s game, it’s clear he impressed Montgomery.

“It’s going to be hard to go away from [Swayman],” Montgomery said Saturday. “He played a terrific game. We win 5-1. But if we decide to go with Ullmark, we’re comfortable with it and our team’s comfortable with it.”

It was Swayman’s ability to shut down the Leafs’ top skaters — including this season’s Rocket Richard Trophy winner Auston Matthews — that caught Montgomery’s attention and the way Swayman stood tall in tense moments.

“I thought his athleticism allowed him to make some really bouncing puck rebound saves,” Montgomery explained. “He made a couple point-blank saves early, and then I thought we got to our game. So, it was really important he made those saves.”

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Choosing to stick with Swayman’s hot hand or go back to Ullmark will be the Bruins’ next critical decision. Ullmark was solid in the regular season with a 22-10-7 record and .915 SV%. Montgomery rode Ullmark for most of the Bruins’ first-round series against the Florida Panthers last year, leaving Swayman out until Game 7 behind a lengthy 17-day layoff between starts. The Bruins — who won last season’s Presidents’ Trophy as the league’s top points-getters — fell that night to the Panthers and were eliminated from the postseason.

This year Montgomery’s strict rotation means Swayman hasn’t played two games in two days since February. But based on Swayman’s postgame reaction Saturday, he’ll have no trouble rallying to get back in the crease.

“[It was] a dream come true,” he said. “Taking that first lap, hearing the fans … it’s a pretty emotional feeling. You just understand how hard it is to get here and what a great opportunity it was. I couldn’t wipe the smile off my face the whole night. Pretty spectacular.”

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