Boston Bruins’ Goalie Rotation Backfires in Game 2

Afew minutes before Game 2 of the first-round series between the Boston Bruins and the Toronto Maple Leafs, Linus Ullmark took the ice to warm up ahead of puck drop at TD Garden. The goalie got the start over teammate Jeremy Swayman, keeping the Bruins’ rotation intact — but their series not so much.

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After losing 3-2 on April 22 to even the series, Boston enters Game 3 with more questions than ever before about what to do next on goal.

Boston took the lead, gave it up, retook it, and then allowed Toronto to score two unanswered goals, including the game-winner by Austin Matthews.

“There’s a reason he scored 69,” Ullmark told reporters after the game, per Amelie Benjamin of NHL.com. “Try to get him next time.”

The story of the game, outside of William Nylander’s mysterious absence, was Ullmark getting the start on goal for the Bruins after Swayman stopped 35 of 36 shots in Game 1 to help the Bruins earn a 5-1 win.

With that victory, Swayman kept his 4-0-0 record against Toronto this season intact, but that wasn’t enough to persuade Boston’s head coach Jim Montgomery to ditch his season-long goalie rotation.

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Moving on from Swayman after he had a masterful outing in Game 1 wasn’t that surprising. Not considering how the Bruins have operated for the past two years when they have been using a rotation of netminders in the last two regular seasons.

The last time Ullmark started a postseason contest, in Game 6 of the 2023 first-round series against the Florida Panthers, he surrendered 6 goals forcing Montgomery to go with Swayman in Game 7 in a too-little-too-late type of move.

Ullmark couldn’t have done much more on Monday. The goalie, starting for the first time in the playoffs this season, stopped 30 shots while allowing 3 goals to the Leafs on the other three he saw.

“I’m very grateful every time I get the opportunity to go out there and play,” Ullmark told reporters after the game, via NESN’s Greg Dudek. “It’s the most fun time in the year. So I don’t take anything for granted.

“I don’t see that anyone should have more starts than the other. It’s all about compete and performance. Also, it’s all about wins.”

That final word is what should worry the Bruins the most after they dropped Game 2, one they played home and the last one at TD Garden until both teams return to Boston for a Game 5 showdown.

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Speaking to reporters after the game, Bruins head coach sounded pleased with Ullmark’s overall performance and didn’t question his decision to start him instead of keeping Swayman in net following the Game 1 win.

“No second guesses,” Montgomery told reporters. “He was terrific. He made multiple big-time saves. It’s the strength of our team. Both of them played really well.

“We only scored two goals.”

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The Game 2 loss cannot be blamed on the goalie decision, but rather on an inoperant Bruins offense that failed to put the puck inside Toronto’s net as easily as they did in Game 1.

Third-line center Morgan Geekie scored Boston’s opening goal less than 10 minutes into the first period. David Pastrnak scored the second with eight seconds to go in the first frame following a faceoff battle won by the same Geekie. After that, the Bruins went radio silent and the scoreboard only moved in Toronto’s box.

The Bruins have serious firepower in their offense but scoring 2 goals while only attempting 29 shots isn’t going to cut it for them against another strong team in Toronto, even though Boston had already proved capable of puncturing Ilya Samsonov‘s net five times just two days before.

“We didn’t think about (the Game 1 loss),” Samsonov (who stopped 27 shots in Game 2) told reporters after the game according to Joshua Kloke of The Athletic. “We just needed to play our game. That’s what we talked about with the coaches.

“We just moved forward and stayed moment by moment.”

The series moves to Toronto for Game 3 and Game 4 scheduled to take place on Thursday, April 25, and Saturday, April 26. Both teams will have to play at least one more game in Boston on April 30.

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