Will Boston Bruins head coach Jim Montgomery’s comments Friday on staying with a Linus Ullmark-Jeremy Swayman goalie rotation in the 2024 Stanley Cup Playoffs silence any Ullmark trade rumors that are still floating around?
It’s only November, but with the Boston Bruins currently parked in the driver’s seat for the top Eastern Conference seed in the 2024 Stanley Cup Playoffs, Montgomery was asked by Scott McLaughlin of WEEI if he would consider staying with rotating the best goalie duo in the NHL when the playoffs arrive?
“For sure,” Montgomery replied without hesitation. “Yup. Absolutely.”
Some Boston Bruins fans may never forgive reigning Jack Adams Award winner and Bruins head coach Jim Montgomery and goaltending coach Bob Essensa for their goalie decisions in the first round of the 2023 Stanley Cup Playoffs. That’s when Montgomery surprisingly decided to abandon the goalie rotation he successfully platooned throughout a record-breaking 2022-23 regular season. Montgomery decided to ride the eventual 2023 Vezina Trophy Winner, Linus Ullmark, instead of switching back and forth between him and Jeremy Swayman. Ullmark did not resemble a Vezina Trophy at all in Games 5 and 6, as the Panthers erased a 3-1 series lead and forced a Game 7. Montgomery finally switched back to Jeremy Swayman for Game 7, but despite a 27-save effort from the then-second-year goalie, the Bruins blew a late 3-2 lead and lost in overtime 4-3.
The 2023-24 Boston Bruins (12-1-2, 26 pts) have leaned on David Pastrnak (11g, 13a) for offense with a group that could use more scoring and a stingy defense and penalty kill to jump out to a better start than last season’s record-breaking squad. Let’s be real, though; the main reason the Bruins are once again amongst the league’s elite teams has been the NHL’s best goalie tandem of Jeremy Swayman and Linus Ullmark. Ullmark is 6-1-1 with a 2.23 GAA and a .928 save percentage. Meanwhile, Swayman is an early 2024 Vezina Trophy candidate himself at 6-0-1 with a 1.69 GAA and a .944 save percentage.
“If you have the goalies to do it, you’re going to,” Montgomery said of rotating two quality puck stoppers. “I do think that when you get into the league as a goalie, it takes a while before you’re ready to play 60 games. So you build up toward that. I think you can do that once you get established in the league. But the wear and tear on goalies is more significant now with the condensed schedule and how good everybody is. You’ve got to have a good goalie every night. So that’s why the balance makes it so important.”
Montgomery’s right about what he said about what it takes for goalies to be able to reach the 60-game plateau. However, as longtime NHL TV analyst and former NHL head coach and executive Pierre McGuire told me on the second episode of our new podcast ‘The Eye Test,’ the days of any NHL goalie playing 60 games or more consistently ‘don’t exist anymore’
On that note, the Bruins would be absolutely foolish to break this dynamic goalie duel up right now. That’s why the read here is that Montgomery, as early as it is in the season right now, was already well-versed with an answer, should the goalie playoff rotation question come up. Unless he and the Bruins’ hockey operations staff are playing poker face, that question was a perfect chance to send a clear message to, first and foremost, Ullmark, but also to teams they’re talking to on the NHL trade market, that the goalies are off limits. Well, unless Oilers general manager Ken Holland is offering Leon Draisaitl. …but we digress.