Ullmark’s strong play is helping the Boston Bruins in multiple ways

The Boston Bruins completed a successful road trip through western Canada over the weekend. They lost to the Vancouver Canucks but beat the Edmonton Oilers (and Calgary Flames), who are currently sitting second and third in Pacific Division. They were two important wins against top teams, something that hasn’t happened very often so far this season.

Related: Bruins’ Early Season Struggles Against Top Teams is Concerning

Bruins’ goaltender Linus Ulmark is coming off one his best games this season against the Flames. He had 40 saves, and a save percent (SV%) of.952. After a rough start to 2021-22, he’s turned it on for his past seven starts. 

Ullmark’s Play Couldn’t Come at a Better Time

The relief that the Bruins’ goaltending has provided for a team that struggled in the first quarter is much needed. Jeremy Swayman, who has been excellent in recent starts, has been a huge help. For the past decade, the Bruins’ strength in net has covered up a lot of the flaws with the rest of the roster. October was very rough for goaltending. Both goalies had their problems and it exposed a lot about the skating. 

Linus Ullmark, Boston Bruins (Amy Irvin/ The Hockey Writers

There are many reasons why early goaltending problems occurred. Ullmark was a new member of the team, which often brings about an adjustment period. Swayman was a rookie with less than 20 games experience. It is also absurd to see the Bruins’ schedule at the beginning of the year. It’s hard to get momentum going when there are long stretches in the schedule without games. To name just a few, the team played their first game five-days after the season began. They then took a four-day break before the second game. 

The Bruins were unable to win three of seven October games by more than three goals. Tuukka Rask is a controversial player. However, it was rare that he lost a game by more then a goal. 

Speaking of Rask, he very well may have played a part in the catalyst for Ullmark’s recent incredible run. Rask was absent last week with an illness unrelated to Covid. He stepped in at practice and gained a lot of attention. In Ullmark’s next two starts, against Calgary and Edmonton who both have some tremendous scorers, he Stopped 81 of 85 shots Of course, Ullmark was doing well before Rask’s practice appearance. He is now 4-1-0 in his last five games with a.941SV%. That’s pretty good, right? 

Linus Ullmark Boston Bruins
Linus Ullmark, Boston Bruins (Amy Irvin/ The Hockey Writers

Ullmark’s run as of late is coming at the perfect time. In the next two weeks, they’ll face the Vegas Golden Knights, the red hot Carolina Hurricanes who shut them out in their last matchup, and a Colorado Avalanche that is still dangerous even with their recent run of injuries. If the Bruins can win the remaining games, they will be in the playoffs. Currently, they’re fighting with the Detroit Red Wings for fourth in the Atlantic, though they have played four less games than them. 

The Bruins’ Looming Goalie Conundrum

Ullmark’s recent run of excellent play, paired with his four-yearThe $20 million contract will certainly make things interesting for the Bruins. Many were shocked when the contract was signed July. Although he showed some promise with the Buffalo Sabres, where he was injured, he hadn’t been able show his true potential. Particularly, the four years were the most worrying as it was an excessive amount of time to commit to someone who has never played more than 34 games in a season.

Ullmark’s play as of late has silenced some of the doubt that lingered around him to start the season, but now it poses a new conundrum for Bruins’ front office: where do we go from here? Swayman, your franchise leader in net, deserves to be in NHL. Rask, the franchise leader You can win and save a lot of moneyHe is on his way back to 100 percent health and wants to be a Boston signer. Not only is he healthy, but he also wants to sign in Boston. Willing to sign cheaply 

Tuukka Rask Boston Bruins
Tuukka Rask, Boston Bruins (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers

Rask will be returning to the Bruins, no matter what your opinion. I think most would be shocked if he signed elsewhere and it isn’t hard to believe that the team wants him to return. He is only 34 and is in the NHL’s top five for career SV%. It was much easier than it looked a month ago because neither Ullmark nor Swayman had made themselves known in the net. Bruce Cassidy is the head coach described the tandem as just “OK.”They have now had a record of 3-1-2 with a combined 0.950 SV%.

One solution is to send Swayman back to the American Hockey League (AHL). It’s difficult to imagine him returning to the AHL after proving himself NHL-ready. There are also real concerns about his future. 

This is where Ullmark’s great play as of late may have additional benefits for the team off the ice: his marketability is on the rise. Although it might seem absurd to trade a player less than one season into a 4-year contract, it could be the best option available for the Bruins. There are always other teams that require a goalie, and if Rask really signs cheaply they may be able to keep some salary to sweeten their deal. They can also package Jake DeBrusk and Rask together to get the asset they need.

The Bruins: Looking ahead

A Ullmark trade would require a lot of work and be difficult to accomplish. Luckily, the Bruins don’t need to be in a huge rush. If Rask decides to return to the ice in January, the Bruins have December to evaluate the pairing of Swayman/Ullmark. Is it the goaltenders who started this season, or is it the one who has been in net for seven games?

They can send Rask to Providence for a conditioning session to get a feel for his abilities before moving him up to Boston. If they carry three goaltenders on their roster for a little while, it isn’t the end of the world. It would give them a chance to gauge the market before March’s trade deadline and make a decision: trade Ullmark, send Swayman to Providence or carry three goaltenders through the end of the season.

Related: Bruins’ Have Options to Shake-up Top-Six Forwards

The Bruins’ ability to maintain a strong net presence, regardless of who is playing, will make things better for the team that had a poor start to 2021-22.

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