The Boston Bruins officially kick off the 2023-24 regular season on Wednesday night against the Chicago Blackhawks at TD Garden. Here are five questions we’re thinking about as they get ready to drop the puck…
Can Linus Ullmark repeat?
The Bruins had a deep, balanced, complete roster last season, but the real difference between being an outstanding team and making history was goaltender Linus Ullmark.
Ullmark earned a Vezina Trophy win for his efforts in 2022-23, sidestepping some absurd takes going around about others deserving it more because they merely played more games. But anyone who watched Ullmark play last season could see that he had taken his game to another level. He especially protected the Bruins early in games, saving them (literally) from early barrages by the opposition as they settled in.
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It wouldn’t be fair to expect Ullmark to once again win the goaltending triple crown (wins, goals against average, save percentage). But everything is in place for him to have another excellent season. He’s healthy. He has almost entirely the same defense in front of him. And the Bruins are going to have to lean on a stingy defensive game to hang in there against teams with more offensive firepower, anyway.
The aforementioned health will be key for Ullmark, of course. And the Bruins may end up using a goalie platoon in the playoffs, if and when they make it back. But Ullmark was the biggest difference last season. Can he be the difference between “decent” and “very good” this time around? He may not reach the incredible heights of a year ago, but there’s little reason to believe he can’t have another excellent campaign.