By: Cody Stelluto | Follow me on Twitter @TownieTalkCody
The Boston Bruins headed into the 2023 All-Star break with an impressive 39-7-5 record, 83 points in the standings, dominantly leading the entire NHL. Many of those wins have come from goaltender Linus Ullmark, in a remarkable tandem with 24-year-old Jeremy Swayman.
As the clear number one, Ullmark has already tied his career high in wins this season with a 26-4-1 record. His partner in crime and favorite person to hug, Swayman, sits at 12-3-4 on the season. It is a bit of a luxury for Ullmark to have a guy like Swayman behind him who can come in and perform at a high level, pushing Ullmark to be better while also giving him some much-appreciated rest throughout the season. With the All-Star break here, many fans are curious how the Bruins will handle the tandem in the second half of the season.
The rotation so far has Swayman accounting for roughly 38% of the games this season, while Ulmark has been the net-minder for 60%. With apparent success this year, I don’t see why the Bruins would switch things up when it’s working so well. If I were Coach Jim Montgomery, I would keep the percentage very close to that through the remainder of the season.
I understand some people want to see how Ullmark fares with a stretch of games played in a “playoff-style showcase,” but it just doesn’t need to happen. Even while surrendering some big games to Swayman, Ullmark is locked in. He has a league-low 1.9 goals-against-average paired with his league-high 0.937 save percentage, and despite not even being top 15 in games played this season, he boasts the most wins of any goalie with 26 total. Swayman is no slouch either, with the 4th best goals-against-average (2.34) and a 0.914 save percentage. It’s a Vezina Trophy-caliber season for Ullmark, and I believe a large part of that is due to the team’s ability to give Ullmark some nights off without hurting the team.
Should Any Changes Be Made to consider load management?
If Montgomery wants to consider anything, I think his best bet would be to tactically insert Ullmark into the right games, not necessarily the most games. Goaltenders put a hefty tax on their bodies each game, and with the playoffs so close, I expect Ullmark to sit out in certain games, even some big ones. For instance, I don’t see Montgomery letting Ullmark face the Tampa Bay Lightning and Carolina Hurricanes back-to-back on March 25th and 26th. I think Ullmark should see the better teams in the second half of the season, but with a very busy March, it makes sense to keep the tandem consistent.
Even former Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask showed what type of playoff run you can achieve when your backup (Jaroslav Halak) allows you to get that proper rest, as he went on a historic statistical 2019 playoff run before coming up short to the St. Louis Blues. The NHL seems to be adapting to tandems, which could be the key to a Stanley Cup Championship. I thoroughly think Montogomery should stick to the script and let Swayman provide that much-needed relief valve for Ullmark.