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Neely: Boston Bruins ‘Expected A Bit Of Slow Start’ For Ullmark

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New Boston Bruins goaltender Linus Ullmark is off to a slow start with his new hockey club after an inconsistent preseason where he was pretty clearly outplayed by rookie tandem partner Jeremy Swayman.

The Boston Bruins have yet to name a starter for opening night on Saturday against the Dallas Stars and it will be Swayman if it’s based simply on merit earned through the exhibition game performances. If it is Ullmark, however, as some thing based on the four-year, $20 million contract he was signed to in the offseason, it comes along with the expectation that the former Buffalo Sabres goaltender was probably going to get off to a slow start this season.

He did just that with an .839 save percentage based on 10 goals allowed on 62 shots in three preseason appearances and did have a rough giveaway in an overtime loss to the New York Rangers where communication with his defense was an issue.

Ullmark was shutdown last season in mid-April due to a lower body injury, and the long layoff clearly left some rust along with the significant adjustment of a new team moving from the lowly Sabres to the perennial contender Bruins.

“Nothing really negative jumped out at me [from the preseason] to speak of. Obviously, Ullmark we kind of knew he’d have a slower camp than most,” said Boston Bruins President Cam Neely, when asked if anything concerning stuck out to him in the preseason. “He didn’t play [at the end of the season], I think his last game was in early April. So, we kind of expected a bit of a slow start from him. I know Goalie Bob [Essensa] has been working with him and getting him more reps in practice. So we’ll see where that goes as well.”

As for Swayman after a stellar camp and a 10-game NHL audition where he posted a .945 save percentage, the Boston Bruins remain extremely impressed with the 22-year-old rookie entering his first full NHL season.

“It looks to me like he has a bright future. Goaltending is a unique position as everybody knows and I think Jeremy has a really great head on his shoulders,” said Neely. “He seems a lot more mature than he is on the ice [at 22 years old] and off the ice he’s really the same way. He practices hard. He out there on the ice for as long as guys want to shoot on him.

“He’s a competitor as well. That’s what I’ve really liked about our goaltending from the past and Jeremy really likes to compete. He’s no different.”

Boston Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy indicated that the B’s will let everybody know their starting goaltender on Friday ahead of this weekend, but Neely’s comments give us an idea of which way they are leaning. It sounds like the Bruins want to give Ullmark a chance to get his legs under him and build up his game after the preseason struggles, and that Swayman has impressed while looking primed and ready to go for the regular season.

Joe Haggerty has covered the Boston Bruins and the NHL for 18 years with NBC Sports Boston, WEEI.com, the Boston Metro and the Woburn Daily Times, and currently serves as lead Bruins reporter and columnist for Boston Hockey Now. Haggs always strives to capture the spirt of the thing any way that he can.

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Michael D Leavitt

sounds like damage control to me.

Rick W Murray

Neely is full of dog doo. Ullmark has been a disaster. If they start this guy Sat. I’m done with this team. They played Rask last season instead of going with hot as hades Swayman. Swayman has earned the start DON’T start Ullmark he’ll have his chances. Not as a starter though. He needs to pull it together Quick I’m not sure that he can.

Alex Charron

Now l pray he starts (now keep your promise )

Chuck Rose

Regardless, they need TWO good goalies going if the B’s are going anywhere this season. They’re going to have to share starting duties which is a good idea for Swayman too. Swayman should be the main guy, the 1A if you will though.

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