The Bruins boasted the best 1-2 punch between the pipes in Linus Ullmark and Jeremy Swayman during their record-setting 2022-23 regular season.
The playoffs were a different story.
After opting for a nearly even allocation of reps for the netminders over the final months of the regular season, Montgomery and goalie coach Bob Essensa deviated from the script in the playoffs.
The results were disastrous. Ullmark got the nod for the first six contests against the Panthers, and he regressed from his Vezina-caliber play. When Game 7 came, the burden fell on Swayman to avoid a crushing first-round exit, and he had gone more than two weeks between starts.
This year’s Bruins have a ways to go before they brace themselves for another postseason gauntlet. But if their sterling 12-1-2 start leads to a playoff push, Montgomery will have no issue with adhering to a rotation.
”For sure,” Montgomery said Friday when asked about keeping a platoon in place for the playoffs.
So far, he has had little reason to deviate from a 50/50 split. Through 15 games, neither Swayman or Ullmark has logged back-to-back starts. Even with a stretch of six games in 10 days upcoming, Montgomery doesn’t expect that to be altered.
“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” has been the mantra for Montgomery, especially with Swayman (6-0-1, .944 save percentage) and Ullmark (6-1-1, .928) trading stellar starts.
As unconventional as it may be to alternate netminders in the regular season, it’s nearly unheard of in the postseason.
Yes, injuries and lackluster results have led coaches to change plans.
Bruce Cassidy’s Golden Knights hoisted the Cup last June behind their fourth-string netminder, Adin Hill.
After opening their 2018 Cup run with Philipp Grubauer in net, the Capitals swapped him out for Braden Holtby after two straight losses to Columbus in the first round.
The Bruins, too, have deployed a successful postseason platoon in net … 51 years ago, when Gerry Cheevers (eight starts) and Eddie Johnston (seven) led the way to a second Cup for the Bruins in three years.
Of course, it’s one thing to preach the perks of a rotation in November; it’s another to carry out that plan in April and May.
But with the pain of last year still lingering, Montgomery has conviction.
“I think it’s a comfort zone,” Montgomery said. “I think as long as our lines of communication [are open], like when Goalie Bob and I met with the goalies at the start of this year. They’re a luxury that allows us to be an elite team. That’s why we, in my opinion, had such a great record last year. It’s surely why we’re having a great regular season this year.
“And we just tell them up front that we’re going to be alternating. You guys are both integral parts of why our team can be really good, and it’s bearing out that way. And the fact that they support each other so well, really it’s the best outward example of why our culture is so good.”
Swayman isn’t fretting over any postseason reps — not with 67 contests left on the docket.
”We can’t think about playoffs until we get there,” Swayman said. “That’s the biggest thing — is just getting to the playoffs right now.”
Along with following their son’s blossoming career, Mason Lohrei’s family is busy on other hockey fronts.
Lohrei’s mother, Teri Weiss, is the inventor of Skate Armor, protective equipment such as neck guards, wrist guards, and undershirts with integrated neck protection designed to lessen the dangers of skate blades.
“I’m really proud of her,” Lohrei said. ”And she’s worked so hard — I’ve never seen anybody work harder on something than she does. With the whole thing that happened, every night she’s been up till 3, 4 a.m. packing, sending stuff out.
“So she’s completely out. But she’s gotten a lot of orders from NHL organizations and organizations around the country.
“She really believes that every kid, every hockey player, should be wearing a neck guard every time they take the ice.”
Johnson’s death and the close call that Bruins teammate Jakub Lauko had last month have Lohrei thinking about donning more protective gear.
“I wore it growing up until I went to junior,” Lohrei said of the neck guard. “And then I haven’t since.
“Definitely have rethought it. Actually been talking with her about — I don’t wear a shirt under my stuff. So it’d be kind of weird to wear the shirt with it. So I’m trying to get her to maybe [make] something that looks like a shirt … Maybe she’ll give me a custom piece because I’m her son.”
Matt Grzelcyk (upper body) rejoined practice Friday at Warrior Ice Arena, donning a red noncontact sweater. Montgomery noted Wednesday that he expects Grzelcyk to come off long-term injured reserve and play next Saturday against the Rangers at Madison Square Garden.
Conor Ryan can be reached at email@example.com.