Will Boston Bruins head coach Jim Montgomery finally make the change in net from Linus Ullmark to Jeremy Swayman for Game 7 or stay with the odds-on favorite for the 2023 Vezina Trophy?
That is the burning question as the Boston Bruins head into a Game 7 they clearly didn’t expect could happen, and that question needs to be answered today, not tomorrow.
Ullmark’s status has been growingly uncertain heading into every game of his team’s Eastern Conference quarterfinals series against the Florida Panthers, and Montgomery hasn’t done anything to quell the question marks surrounding his starting goalie. After Ullmark had easily his worst game of the season at easily the worst possible time, allowing six goals on 32 shots in a 7-5 Game 6 loss to the upstart Panthers that forced a Game 7 on Sunday, his status has never been more uncertain.
In his post-game press conference, Montgomery, the odds-on favorite for the Jack Adams Award only sparked this goalie controversy that, whether anyone with the Boston Bruins will admit it or not, has had a negative effect on not just Linus Ullmark but the team in front of him. After Ullmark once again seemed to be battling some sort of injury and looked nothing like the Vezina Trophy favorite that won 40 games (1.89 GAA, .938), this season, Montgomery was asked if his starting goalie was OK in his post-game presser?
“No. I think Linus is fine,” Montgomery replied. “I looked at him in the eyes a few times when he came back to the bench and I looked at the way his eyes were looking and he looked intense, and he looked keen.”
Two questions later, Montgomery was asked point-blank if he considered pulling Ullmark at any point in the see-saw affair that ensued at FLA Live Arena on Friday night.
“Yes,” Montgomery said bluntly.
The same reporter, Tara Sullivan of the Boston Globe, then pressed the Boston Bruins bench boss about switching to Swayman for the do-or-die Game 7 on Sunday.
“Ok, then to speak to why you didn’t and would you in Game 7 looking ahead,” Sullivan followed up.
Montgomery answered the first question but dodged the second one, the same one he’s been dodging all series.
“Well, we communicated with everybody involved and we just felt it was that kind of game that we were going to pull out,” he replied. “It was the kind of game that happened a lot during the year and we always seem to find a way to win it. But, we’re learning here in the playoffs it’s a different animal; it just is.”
Montgomery did add that the contemplating on a goalie switch from Ullmark to Swayman did not come after the first period.
Montgomery has clearly been contemplating this move all series and it’s only created a firestorm of criticism for both him and Ullmark. By no means is he to blame for Ullmark’s subpar Games 2 and 5 and an abysmal Game 6, but the coach that led this team to an historic season needs to give a firm Yay or Nay on who is starting Game 7 on Saturday. Leaving the answer to the most burning question amongst the Boston sports media and fans this weekend up in the air until the morning skate on Sunday will only put added pressure on Ullmark, Swayman, and the entire team heading into Game 7.
Montgomery and selected players will address the media at 12:45 p.m. ET on Saturday. It would behoove Montgomery to have a firm answer then and have his team wake up on Sunday, knowing exactly who their goalie will be in Game 7.