In addition to the $20 million bag offered to him, everything about the Boston Bruins made it easy for then-free agent goaltender Linus Ullmark to make his decision after a six-season run with the Buffalo Sabres.
“I always like playing in Boston for some reason,” said Ullmark. “It was always very tight games between [the Sabres] and them and I always liked the city as well, whenever we came here visiting. It’s a very beautiful city [and] I love TD Garden.”
But Boston is about more than beauty. In Boston, there’s legitimate Stanley Cup expectations from the fans and team alike, and probably will be until Patrice Bergeron & Co. call it quits. And the 28-year-old Ullmark knows it.
“There is a lot of passionate people surrounding the Boston sports,” Ullmark noted. “We got the three big ones in MLB, NFL and NHL. For me, it’s – I do like it, I would say. I do like it as well that there is high expectations for the team. It’s not about making the playoffs, it’s about winning the Stanley Cup. That’s the first and foremost goal that everybody has from the fans to the players to the management.”
Ullmark, of course, has never experienced playoff hockey. He’s spent all 117 games of his NHL career with the Sabres, who drafted him with the No. 163 overall pick back in 2012, and have not qualified for the playoffs since 2011. But the advanced metrics tell the story of a potentially elite goaltender in Ullmark, and the Bruins believe that Ullmark is entering his prime and that a move to a more structured system with the Bruins with allow him to get a taste of postseason hockey.
“He’s big, he stops a lot of pucks way above expected, especially in five-on-five situations,” Bruins general manager Don Sweeney said of Ullmark. “He’s had a lot of experience. He’s had some injuries we’re going to help him address to be in the best shape going forward and play in a real structured environment which I think he was excited about. He knows what our team is like, playing against it, and he’s excited to be on the inside of it all, playing for the us, and we’re fortunate.”
And that belief comes with some serious expectations for the Swedish netminder following what was a career-best .917 save percentage in 2021. From himself, too.
“I probably have the highest expectations [and] I don’t really think anyone from the outside can match that,” Ullmark admitted when asked about his expectations for the 2021-22 season. “I always try to be the best. Even though it might be as a person as well. But definitely, it’s – you would be a fool not to think of the Stanley Cup as your main goal and things that we want to achieve.
“For me, myself, I’m really looking forward to get to know everyone first and foremost. And then you build upon that trust factor. It’s tough to say what my expectations are because for me, it’s just about being better than I was last season. And try to top that and keep on playing hockey and enjoy it.”
Well, at least you can’t say he doesn’t get what it takes to be an athlete in Boston.
But now comes the often challenging part: showing it on the ice.
Ty Anderson is a writer and columnist for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Yell at him on Twitter: @_TyAnderson.