With Ullmark in funk, Bruins’ Game 7 goalie in air
- Kristen Shilton is a national NHL reporter for ESPN.
The Boston Bruins aren’t ruling out a goalie change for Game 7 of their Eastern Conference first-round playoff series against the Florida Panthers.
In fact, Boston coach Jim Montgomery thought about pulling starter Linus Ullmark during Game 6 on Friday, a 7-5 loss for the Bruins in which Ullmark gave up six goals on 32 shots. Now the Bruins face elimination when they clash with Florida for a final time Monday — and every player is under review.
Montgomery ultimately chose to stick with Ullmark in Game 6, but he didn’t say whether Ullmark or backup Jeremy Swayman would get the call in Game 7.
“We communicate with everybody involved, and we thought it was the kind of game we were going to pull out,” Montgomery said of not pulling Ullmark. “I think Linus is fine. I looked at him in his eyes a few times when he came back to the bench. I liked the way his eyes were looking. He looked intense and he looked keen.”
Ullmark had been a spectacular presence in the crease for Boston during the regular season, going 40-6-1 with a .938 save percentage and 1.89 GAA to be a front-runner for the Vezina Trophy. The Bruins’ No. 1 gave up four goals or more only twice through 49 appearances, but Ullmark has ceded four or more scores three times already in this series alone.
“I just couldn’t make one more save. That’s it,” Ullmark said Friday. “Sometimes that’s just part of the game where that happens and today was one of those games. Today was just one of those days.”
Swayman was 24-6-4 with a .920 save percentage and 2.27 GAA in the regular season. He took over for Ullmark in the final minutes of Boston’s Game 4 victory after Ullmark earned a penalty for tussling with Matthew Tkachuk. Otherwise, the Bruins have leaned on Ullmark. But after taking a 3-1 series lead following a 6-2 win in Game 4, they’ve dropped two straight and will have to try closing the Panthers out on home ice.
Questions swirled around Ullmark’s health and whether he’s battling an injury that has contributed to his uncharacteristically poor play. When asked how he was feeling physically after Game 6, Ullmark said, “I feel good. Thanks.”
Montgomery has until Sunday to decide who will man the net in Game 7, where the Bruins will also try to break the curse of recent President’s Trophy winners. Boston put together a historic regular season with 65 wins and 135 points. But since 2007-08 only one President’s Trophy winner has also won a Stanley Cup — and that was the Chicago Blackhawks in a lockout-shortened 2012-13 campaign.
The Bruins will need to make the right call on their goaltending — and, frankly, everywhere else — to avoid carrying on the recent tradition of tough postseason results for regular-season champions.
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