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As playoffs loom, Bruins weigh ending goalie rotation

Boston Bruins Jeremy Swayman - The Canadian Press

The Boston Bruins have stood by their goaltender rotation this season, with neither Jeremy Swayman nor Linus Ullmark seeing more than two straight starts since mid-January. 

With the team potentially set to pick just one as their playoff starter, Bruins coach Jim Montgomery admitted Monday the team is weighing giving one of the two an extended run in the net. 

“At some point, we might want to see someone play three games in a row. That’s kind of what we’ve discussed,” Montgomery told The Athletic after a 5-1 loss to the St. Louis Blues on Monday. “We haven’t discussed it since a couple weeks ago – let a guy go on a run and let the other guy go on a run, just to assimilate the demands of playing.”

Swayman allowed four goals on 21 shots Monday, posting his worst save percentage of any start this season at .810. On the season, the 25-year-old is 21-7-8 with a 2.49 goals-against average and .920 save percentage. 

Swayman got the only extended run of starts of the duo when Ullmark was sidelined by an injury in January. He went 3-0-3 as he made six straight starts, the only time this season either goaltender has started more than two straight.

Ullmark, 30, has a 17-7-7 record this season with a 2.72 GAA and a .913 save percentage. 

With Swayman needing a new deal again this summer after being awarded a $3.475 million in arbitration last summer, reports last week indicated that Bruins general manager Don Sweeney was considering moving Ullmark, who is signed through next season at a $5 million cap hit.

“I really like the tandem we have right now,” Sweeney said Friday after the trade deadline passed. “I’m very happy that we stand pat there. Rumours are rumours in terms of what happens in private conversations. You guys know me well enough it’s not coming from here in terms of what we’re trying to explore and what other teams are asking about.

“I made no bones that if I had to rob from a real strength of this hockey club that was something we may have to do if it made our team ultimately better, and we didn’t move in that direction.”

After a Vezina Trophy-winning regular season, the Bruins started Ullmark in each of their first six playoff games against the bottom-seed Florida Panthers last year, before turning to Swayman in their eventual Game 7 loss.

Sweeney noted Friday that extended playing time in the regular season is not necessarily a precursor for playoff success. In fact, the opposite could be true.

Adin Hill was the Stanley Cup goalie last year. He didn’t have that,” Sweeney said. “But he had a damn good team in front of him. And he played really well. (Sergei) Bobrovsky, for that matter, didn’t start in the playoffs last year and took that team to the Stanley Cup Final, as we unfortunately know far too well.”

Ullmark had the edge in starts last season, posting a 40-6-1 record compared to Swayman's 24-6-4. He went 3-3 in his six playoff starts, posting a .896 save percentage and a 3.34 GAA. Swayman allowed four goals on 31 shots as the Panthers eliminated the Presidents' Trophy-winning Bruins in overtime of Game 7.

This season, the Bruins are fighting to chase down the Panthers for first place in the Atlantic Division, currently sitting one point back with two more games played. Boston is currently on course to face the rival Toronto Maple Leafs in the first round while holding home-ice advantage. 

The Bruins, who eliminated Toronto in both 2018 and 2019, defeated the Maple Leafs twice last week, both by a score of 4-1 with Swayman in net. Toronto is nine points back of the Bruins with three games in hand as the season enters its final stretch.