The Boston Bruins ended up making the decision everybody expected them to based on the final few weeks of the regular season by announcing that goalie Linus Ullmark would be the starter on Monday night in Game 1 vs. the Carolina Hurricanes.
Ullmark ended the season by ripping off five wins in his last six games and posted a 1.41 goals against average and .950 save percentage in seven games during the month of April, and essentially won any head-to-head competition with rookie Jeremy Swayman for which goalie would get first crack at the postseason.
Ullmark was taking things pretty matter-of-factly leading up to Boston’s decision to go with him, though he at least admitted he was “excited” to get his first real experience in the Stanley Cup playoffs after toiling with the Buffalo Sabres prior to signing with Boston.
“I don’t think about that at all,” said Ullmark last weekend when asked about being the Game 1 starter. “I try to focus on what’s important right now. For me, [on Saturday it] was this game. Then when that game is done, you focus on the next one and keep building from there. If they ask me to play [in Game 1], I’ll play. If it’s Sway they want to play, I’ll be there for him and back him up.”
The expectation is that both Linus Ullmark and Swayman could appear in the first round series, especially if it ends up getting extended into a six or seven game playoff series. Ullmark finished the regular season with a 26-10-2 record, a 2.45 goals against average and a .917 save percentage in 41 regular season appearances after signing a four-year, $20 million free agent contract with the Boston Bruins last summer.
Swayman finished 4-5-0 in April with a 3.05 goals against average and .889 save percentage, but played pretty well in a stretch mid-month when Ullmark was knocked out of commission after taking a puck to the helmet. It will be an interesting match of goaltenders as Antti Raanta is expected to get the start for the Hurricanes with Freddie Andersen injured and out of commission after going 3-0-0 with a .990 save percentage in three blowout wins against the Boston Bruins this season.