Bruins goaltender Linus Ullmark did not have a preseason to write home about.
In action for three games during the team’s six-game preseason, the 28-year-old Ullmark posted an 0-0-2 record and finished with an .839 save percentage with 10 goals allowed on 62 shots faced. Among the group of 27 goalies with at least 100 minutes played this preseason, that .839 ranked as the fourth-worst, beating only the Hurricanes’ Antti Raanta (.831), Buffalo’s Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen (.836), and the Devils’ Jonathan Bernier (.836). Ullmark also had the fourth-worst high-danger save percentage (.696) and saved the fourth-worst goals saved above average (-3.66).
In other words, there’s work to be done.
“He’s just gotta tighten up,” Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy said of Ullmark following Wednesday’s overtime loss. “Some pucks are finding their way through and for a big man, that’ll be a challenge. That’s how a lot of goalies are judged. Do they get beat with good shots or are they getting through you? We gotta make sure that [goalie coach] Bob [Essensa] tightens him up. Some of the pucks are finding ways to get through him and he’ll have to work through that.”
Cassidy’s comments line up with that ugly, aforementioned goals saved above average number. There’s been instances of the Bruins breaking down in front of Ullmark — Cassidy noted that the Bruins were ‘sloppy’ on Wednesday, and they were definitely sloppy at times in both of Ullmark’s prior preseason appearances — but there’s also been some ‘leaky’ goals. That’s looking beyond the obvious goof-up that ended Ullmark’s first full preseason start with the B’s, too.
But if the Bruins want to grab a positive from Ullmark’s final preseason game (and they certainly do), it’s that he made some definite strides during some ugly stretches for the Bruins, and it took a skillful tip from TJ Oshie to beat him on a Washington power play that got seven opportunities (and had seven shots) by the night’s end.
“[Wednesday] felt like it was certainly a step in the right direction,” Ullmark, who finished with 26 saves on 30 shots, said. “Lot of things felt a little bit more natural than they have been in the past. Felt a lot better. It’s the preseason, there’s a time and place for everything to fall into place for the upcoming season, so certainly feels a lot better today.”
And everybody is acknowledging both the obvious adjustment period and the sample size in front of Linus The Bear right now.
A career-long Sabre, Ullmark is adjusting to how the Bruins play in front of him. There’s more structure. After six seasons of being the last line of defense for a franchise that needed an entire Justice League more than they needed Superman, Ullmark doesn’t have to try to be a superhero on every sequence. That’s an adjustment. And with Ullmark’s season done back in April, missing the final 14 games of the season due to a lower-body injury, there’s a rust element.
Both parties are still trying to scrape off rust and Sabre stench, basically.
“He had lots of action [Wednesday], which is good, he needs it,” Cassidy admitted. “Needs to get playing time. He was better. He’s gonna need more reps.”
Unfortunately for the 6-foot-4 netminder, however, the Bruins are out of free reps. Their six-game preseason is over and done with, and the next time the Bruins step on the ice, it’ll matter in the standings. It currently remains unclear just who will get the nod for the Bruins in that game, or what the season split will look like between Ullmark and second-year pro Jeremy Swayman. Hell, Tuukka Rask has told the Bruins he wants to come back when healthy, so there’s that, too.
But Ullmark is sure he’ll be ready when his name is called next.
“We have a week left [before the season starts], which is going to be nice,” said Ullmark. “Just keep on working, getting more repetitions. I can’t really answer that right now, but I’m certain that I’m ready to go when the season starts.”
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.