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  • How the Ullmark-Swayman tandem picked up where they left off

    Tim Rosenthal October 25, 2023

    Heading into the off-season, Linus Ullmark didn’t know if he’d remain a Boston Bruin.

    The veteran netminder admitted that his future had crossed his mind as Don Sweeney attempted to shed cap space. Coming off a Vezina Trophy career season, Ullmark and his $5 million per year salary may have enticed a handful of the other general managers to at least inquire Sweeney about a potential deal.

    Sweeney needed as much space as possible to make room for future transactions. One of the moves involved Jeremy Swayman heading to arbitration.

    At that point, the Bruins didn’t know if the league’s top goaltending duo would return for the 100th season.

    “When you have two goalies that are so close when it comes to stats, there’s [probably] going to be some changes,” Ullmark said during his pre-media availability at the NHL Awards in Nashville.

    “I think for both of us, we want to be together, and we want to stay in Boston because that’s where we thrived, and you’ve seen the success that we’ve had. We just have to see. There’s a personal side to it, and there’s a business side to it. You’ve got to honor it, and that’s just what being a hockey player is.”

    Ullmark’s return to Boston became clearer once Sweeney shipped Taylor Hall and Nick Foligno to Chicago just hours before he accepted his first career Vezina award.

    A few weeks later, a neutral arbitrator awarded Swayman with a $3.475 million salary for the 2023-24 season. The Bruins offered $2 million to Swayman. Swayman’s camp countered with a $4.8 million proposal.

    Both the Bruins and Swayman wanted to avoid the arbitration process. But in the end, they had secured Swayman and Ullmark ahead of a transitional centennial season.

    “It wasn’t a process I wanted to go through,” Swayman told reporters of the arbitration hearings. “But I understand that it’s a business, and in the end, I’m grateful I went through it because I have so many things to be grateful for.”

    Through the first six games, the Bruins also remain grateful for Ullmark and Swayman picking up where they left off.


    Both have started three games each. Combined, they’ve allowed just seven goals on 172 shots on goal for an aggregate .959 save percentage and 1.20 goals against average. They’ve faced a handful of high-danger chances and other quality looks, but the defense in front of Ullmark and Swayman has kept their creases clean for the most part, allowing both to track pucks on primary looks while limiting secondary opportunities on rebounds and extended possessions.

    “That’s something special to see as a goalie…to see these guys working their butts off to backcheck, take away lanes, obviously blocking shots and scoring some big goals in a timely manner,” Swayman told reporters following Boston’s 3-0 victory over the Blackhawks on Tuesday. “That’s a huge momentum win for us, and I think it’s going to help us moving forward.”

    The offensive production remains a work in progress. But the outings from Swayman and Ullmark have allowed the transitioning Bruins some wiggle room as Jim Montgomery searches for an ideal group of forward trios.

    The Ullmark-Swayman tandem has also allowed the Bruins to find an identity early on. Whereas a high-tempo attack and a stingy transitional game paced the Bruins to a record-breaking regular season in 2022-23, a heavier grinding system, defensive setup and stout goaltending provide a blueprint for success with this year’s squad.

    “Loved the results. Loved the goaltending,” Montgomery said. “We’re starting to see our identity build… you’re starting to see us become a heavy grinding team, which is what I think we’re going to have to be.”

    The Bruins haven’t encountered the strongest of teams to start the season. But they’ve taken advantage of their initial slate with their first 6-0 start in nearly 90 years.

    Undoubtedly, the Bruins will need more stout performances from Swayman and Ulmark as more formidable opponents await in the coming weeks, including the Panthers, Red Wings, Maple Leafs and Stars. And come playoff time, Montgomery and goalie coach Bob Essensa will likely approach the goaltending situation differently following last year’s first-round collapse against Florida.

    Yet, after Swayman and Ullmark faced a little uncertainty in the offseason, the Bruins couldn’t have asked for better performances from their dynamic duo in net to start this season.

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    Tim Rosenthal

    Tim Rosenthal serves as the Managing Editor of Bruins Daily. He started contributing videos to the site in 2010 before fully coming on board during the Bruins' Stanley Cup run in 2011. His bylines over the last decade have been featured on Boston.com, FoxSports.com, College Hockey News, Patch and Inside Hockey. You can follow Tim on Twitter @_TimRosenthal.


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