‘Terrific' Ullmark was Bruins' best player in Game 2 loss to Leafs

‘Terrific’ Ullmark was Bruins’ best player in Game 2 loss to Leafs originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston

BOSTON — Don’t blame Linus Ullmark for the Bruins’ Game 2 loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs on Monday night.

After Jeremy Swayman led the Bruins to a 5-1 victory in Game 1 of this first-round Stanley Cup Playoff series at TD Garden, Bruins head coach Jim Montgomery decided to keep the goalie rotation going by turning to Ullmark for the second game.

The Bruins came up short in a 3-2 loss, but the score would have looked much worse had Ullmark not made a bunch of great saves.

“No second guesses. He was terrific,” Montgomery said postgame when asked about the decision to start Ullmark over Swayman. “He made multiple big-time saves, and it’s the strength of our team. Both of them played really well. We only scored two goals (in Game 2).”

Ullmark made 30 saves on 33 shots. He was under constant pressure all game as the Leafs tilted the ice in their favor for large stretches.

The Leafs earned a huge 37-17 advantage in scoring chances and a 14-7 edge in high-danger chances in all situations, per Natural Stat Trick. Scoring chances were 25-12 in favor of Toronto during 5-on-5 action.

Ullmark was the team’s best penalty killer Saturday with eight saves, including three high-danger stops, in 5:34 of shorthanded ice time. His most notable save on the penalty kill robbed Leafs forward Calle Jarnkrok in the second period.

Ullmark kept the score tied at two early in the third period by getting a piece of a Nick Robertson shot that at first glance appeared headed for the back of the net.

The Leafs took their first lead of the season against the Bruins when Auston Matthews scored on a breakaway with 7:54 remaining in regulation.

Would you like a save in that spot? Sure, but Matthews is an elite offensive player and led the league with 69 goals this season. He’s going to score in that spot more times than not. Charlie McAvoy’s defending on that sequence was subpar, to say the least.

Ullmark has lost three consecutive playoff games dating back to last season, and he’s won just three of his nine postseason starts in his Bruins career. But he was very good Monday night. The Bruins turned the puck over too much, played with five defensemen for about half the game after Andrew Peeke left in the second period and didn’t return, and the offense didn’t generate enough scoring chances at 5-on-5. The final score easily could have been 4-2 or 5-2 Toronto, but Ullmark gave his team a chance to win.

“I’m very grateful every time I get an opportunity to play,” Ullmark said. “It’s the most fun time of the year. I don’t take anything for granted.”

So, what should the Bruins do going forward with their goalies?

The smart move would be to keep the rotation going for at least another game and return to Swayman for Wednesday night’s matchup in Toronto. Swayman is 4-0-0 with a .967 save percentage against the Leafs this season, including a stellar 35-save effort in Saturday’s series opener.

Swayman will have three days of rest going into Game 3. If he plays great and beats the Leafs again, then maybe the team can go back to him for a second straight start in Game 4. The deeper the series goes, the more performance should be the deciding factor in which goalie gets the net.

But through two games, there’s no question the goalies have been the Bruins’ best players. That’s one positive they can take with them to Toronto.

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