Why Bruins should keep Ullmark as starting goalie in Game 2 vs. Hurricanes originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston
Linus Ullmark’s introduction to the Stanley Cup Playoffs wasn’t one to remember as the Boston Bruins lost 5-1 in Game 1 of their first-round series against the Carolina Hurricanes on Monday night.
The veteran goalie gave up four goals on 24 shots. His performance was better than his stat line would lead you to believe, but that won’t stop people from debating which goalie the Bruins should start in Game 2 on Wednesday night.
Bruins notes: Failing to score early cost B’s in Game 1 loss to Hurricanes
B’s head coach Bruce Cassidy was unwilling to announce his Game 2 starter after Boston’s series-opening defeat, but he was quick to take blame away from Ullmark.
“We’ll let you know (the Game 2 starter) tomorrow. I’m not faulting the goaltender for this,” Cassidy said. “We had some opportunities we needed to finish as well, like they did.”
Cassidy should go back to Ullmark for Game 2.
Ullmark played quite well over the first 36 minutes Monday night and made several impressive saves to keep the game scoreless deep into the second period. The first two goals allowed were not his fault. The Hurricanes had lots of traffic in front of the net and deflected the puck at top of the crease on each of those late second-period tallies. Ullmark was unable to see the puck through the traffic until it was too late. The Bruins have to do a much better job blocking those shots or clearing bodies from the front of the net.
The third goal was a perfectly executed 2-on-1 scoring chance by the Hurricanes after a horrendous pinch in the attacking zone by Bruins defenseman Matt Grzelcyk. Sure, you’d like your goalie to make a save in that sequence, but Teuvo Teravainen fired a perfect shot to beat Ullmark up high.
The fourth goal is one where Ullmark deserves plenty of blame. Vincent Trocheck scored from a ridiculous angle off the back of Ullmark’s helmet. It was a shot that absolutely can not go in.
“You need the saves at the end when you’re not scoring. Let’s call it what it is,” Cassidy said. “A 2-on-1 is a great play by them. They executed it. You do not want to be in that position, but it’s a great shot. The last goal, would it have mattered? Short side. He’s probably going to tell you it’s not a great goal to give up, but by then it’s 4-1.
“We’re not going to put anything on Ullmark. Whichever goalie is in there for us, you’ve got to fight to find pucks in this series. Same thing at the other end early on. Raanta was fighting to find them, there were some rebounds and we did not capitalize. … Linus will have to work harder to find them as well. That’s just the hand he’s going to be dealt. They’ve got some big bodies that camp themselves out front. That’s going to be a challenge for any goalie. “
Ullmark deserved to start Game 1 after he outplayed rookie netminder Jeremy Swayman by a wide margin over the final two months of the regular season. His .950 save percentage in April was the second-best of any goalie who played six or more games.
The 28-year-old goalie wasn’t the primary reason why Boston lost Monday night, and the number of quality saves he made was much higher than the number of soft goals he gave up. So it would be pretty unfair to bench him after just one loss. Doing that could also take a toll on his confidence and make it more difficult to go back to him later in the playoffs if needed.
If Ullmark plays poorly in Game 2 and the Bruins lose again, then the conversation changes and putting in Swayman to light a fire under the team now makes a lot more sense. It’s also a gamble to throw Swayman into the mix on the road in a hostile environment. That’s not a great spot for a rookie with zero postseason starts in his career.
But right now, there’s no reason to pull a panic move and change goalies. Ullmark should, at the very least, get a chance to redeem himself in Game 2.