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2023 Player Ratings: It was “everything but the playoffs” for Linus Ullmark

So good, then...not so good.

2023 NHL Awards - Winner Portraits Photo by Brian Babineau/NHLI via Getty Images

(Hey look at that — more perfect harmony! We better start arguing about something, it’s getting too sappy around here.)

There are plenty of Boston Bruins who had a dream regular season/nightmare postseason dichotomy, but it’d be hard to argue any player’s was more dramatic than Linus Ullmark.

Ullmark had, by many accounts, an all-time great regular season.

He won the Vezina Trophy and (in tandem with Jeremy Swayman) the Jennings Trophy. He had a top-10 Hart Trophy finish.

He had the sixth-best single season save percentage in NHL history. He was tied for the second-lowest goals allowed adjusted number in NHL history. He had the 16th-best GSAA number in NHL history and was only the second goalie in the 21st century to eclipse the 48 mark.

At risk of turning this into a rip-off of a Norm MacDonald bit...I mean this guy was just real good.

It came, for the most part, out of nowhere as well. Ullmark was fine in his first season with the Bruins, but heading into last season, it was very much a toss-up for 1A and 1B in net.

Once the regular season got going, Ullmark took control of those reins pretty quickly, relegating Swayman to the back-up (albeit a very capable one) role.

And then...the playoffs.


Ullmark’s playoff numbers were as eye-poppingly bad as his regular season ones were good.

It was pretty clear by the middle stages of that Florida series that Ullmark wasn’t right, allowing goals that would have been turned aside with ease in the regular season and generally looking a little slow or labored in his movements.

It’s sad that it came to this after the regular season he had, but it’s fair to say that had the B’s got even bang average goaltending out of Ullmark in the Florida series, they probably would have won it in five games.

Instead, fans spent the latter portion of that debacle wondering when Ullmark would lose his starting spot, a move that didn’t come until the final game, leaving the soon-to-be Vezina winner watching from the bench as his team’s season ended.

We’re all in agreement that taking Ullmark out of the crease in that series was the right move, with most of us also agreeing that it happened at least a game too late.

There were reports that Ullmark was dealing with a “debilitating” injury in the playoffs. While he would acknowledge dealing with something, he also said he could have played in Game 7 if needed, so...who knows.

Overall, it was a stunningly swift fall from grace for Ullmark, who went from a brick wall to a wrapping paper wall (like one of those paper banner wall things high school football teams run through) pretty quickly.

The injury can’t be discounted and Ullmark deserves credit for not using it as an excuse. You shouldn’t erase nearly 50 games of success after six games of foibles, regardless of the stage.

Still, it’s hard to know what to expect from Ullmark this season — obviously you shouldn't expect more record-breaking numbers, and some of his marks from last year are so high that regression is guaranteed.

But we almost certainly won’t see playoff-level Ullmark either.

So even after a career year that ended with a bunch of hardware, we’re kind of back in the same place we were at the start of last season: waiting to see which of Ullmark or Swayman claims the 1A spot.