What might a goalie rotation in playoffs look like for Bruins?

BOSTON — How the Bruins will use their goalie tandem in the 2024 Stanley Cup Playoffs is perhaps the biggest question mark surrounding the team right now.

Linus Ullmark, Jeremy Swayman finish season with historically absurd gap over rest of NHL - CBS Boston

The B’s have used a rotation for much of the last three regular seasons, and that strategy has produced plenty of success for Linus Ullmark and Jeremy Swayman.

Ullmark has started 123 games with a .925 save percentage and a 2.27 GAA since the start of the 2021-22 campaign. He also won the Vezina Trophy last season after leading the league in wins, save percentage and GAA. Swayman has been nearly as good, posting a .917 save percentage and a 2.41 GAA in 113 starts during that same span.

They have alternated starts for most of the current season, including the last 20 games. The last time a B’s netminder started back-to-back matchups was Swayman on Feb. 19 versus the Dallas Stars and Feb. 21 versus the Oilers.

True rotations typically aren’t used in the playoffs, and in the salary cap era (2005-06 to the present) no team has ever won a Stanley Cup title using a real rotation for an entire postseason run.

But there’s a first time for everything, and given the success the Bruins have enjoyed using a rotation, it does make some sense to try it out in the first round.

If the Bruins do use a goalie rotation to begin the playoffs, what might it look like?

“I think if we commit to a rotation, it’s going to be Game 1, Game 2, Game 3, Game 4 — if that’s what we end up deciding, and then we can go from there,” Bruins head coach Jim Montgomery said before Saturday’s game versus the Florida Panthers at TD Garden.

“Obviously, performance and winning in the playoffs dictates a lot of the decision making. This is what we’re comfortable doing. It’s what our goalies are used to preparing (for). So we’ll see what ends up happening.”

The decision to not use a rotation in last year’s playoffs helped contribute to the Bruins being upset by the Florida Panthers in a seven-game first-round series.

Ullmark suffered an injury near the end of the regular season and played the first six games against the Panthers. After two shaky performances in Game 5 and Game 6 losses, Montgomery finally switched to Swayman for Game 7. But it was too late. Swayman was making his first start in about two weeks and the Panthers emerged victorious 4-3 in overtime.

One of the challenges with a goalie rotation is knowing when to keep it going and when to stick with one guy. We’ve seen many instances over the years of a goalie getting hot in the playoffs and almost single handedly carrying his team on a deep run. Sergei Bobrovsky went on that kind of run for the Panthers last season when they reached the Stanley Cup Final, which was well beyond anyone’s wildest expectations for that club.

If Ullmark starts Game 1 in the first round and pitches a 35-save shutout, should he really sit the next game? He would if the Bruins used a real goalie rotation.

The luxury for the Bruins is they have two of the top 15 goalies in the league, so they will have a good chance to win every night in the playoffs regardless of who starts in net.

Using a real rotation in the playoffs would be a pretty bold move, but if there’s a tandem that could make it work, it’s probably Ullmark and Swayman. They’ve shown to be highly effective doing that in the regular season since 2021.

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