Boston Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy addressed how he and Bruins goalie coach Bob Essensa will handle the goalie situation this season on Monday. For the first time in 12 seasons, the Bruins will not enter the regular season with a designated starter named Tuukka Rask. In fact, they won’t designate a starter at all before the season and instead, will let 29-year-old newcomer Linus Ullmark and 22-year-old rookie Jeremy Swayman battle it out on a month-to-month basis.
“Less so than other years because there was a defined No. 1: Tuukka, right?”, Cassidy replied when asked if the goalie schedule was planned out yet. “So we would schedule his 50-54-ish (games) kind of the last couple years and go through the whole calendar. I’m not sure we’ll do that this year in terms of the same way. I think it’ll be more month-to-month, performance-driven. Ullmark’s been in the league. We have to make sure we’re true to giving him time to get his game where it needs to. (Goaltending coach) Bob (Essensa) will deal with that on a regular basis.”
The Boston Bruins head coach also made it clear that as long Swayman can play the way he did in his first ten NHL games last season, then he will likely get just as many reps between the pipes, if not more.
“Swayman, we know what he can do in a sample size and certainly will get the net and continue to get it if he earns it,” Cassidy said. “So it’s not determined one will be definitely the No. 1 or not. So I think there’s more competition than there ever has been. Like I said, Ullmark is a veteran in this league and we have to be mindful of that and make sure he gets the necessary reps too.”
The Bruins and Rask have still not ruled out a return to the Boston Bruins for the winningest goalie in franchise history, but for now it appears the Bruins will be going with a 1-2 punch of Ullmark and Swayman with no clear cut starter.
Swayman went 7-3-0 with a 1.50 GAA and .945 save percentage last season. In his only Stanley Cup Playoffs appearance of his career thus far, Swayman replaced Rask in the third period of Game 5 against the New York Islanders in the second round. He allowed one goal on three shots in a 5-4 loss for the Bruins that put them down 3-2 in the series. Despite still Rask still dealing with a hip injury, Swayman didn’t get the start for Game 6. The Bruins lost and were eliminated in the second round for a second straight season.
Playing behind one of the worst teams in NHL history with the Buffalo Sabres last season, Ullmark went 9-6-3 with a 2.63 GAA and .912 save percentage. Ullmark has never played in a Stanley Cup Playoff game.