Boston Bruins

Boston Bruins

BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS - JANUARY 14: Linus Ullmark #35 of the Boston Bruins tends net against the Toronto Maple Leafs during the second period at TD Garden on January 14, 2023 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

The most obvious of all Bruins-related award nominations came down Thursday evening, as it was announced that Boston netminder Linus Ullmark will be among the three finalists for the 2022-23 Vezina Trophy.

Ullmark will be joined by the Islanders’ Ilya Sorokin and Winnipeg’s Connor Hellbuyck as the finalists this year’s Vezina Trophy, which is awarded annually to the top goaltender in the NHL and is voted on by the league’s general managers.

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  • The presumed favorite for the award, Ullmark’s nomination comes after a regular season that saw him lead the league in wins (40), goals against average (1.89), and save percentage (.938).

    That made Ullmark the first goaltender to win the goalie version of the ‘Triple Crown’ since the Canadiens’ Carey Price in 2014-15, and made him just the eighth goaltender in league history to accomplish the feat.

    The 6-foot-5 netminder’s .938 save percentage was also tied for the best single-season save percentage in team and league history, as it matched the .938 put forth by Tim Thomas during his incredible 2010-11 campaign.

    Ullmark’s 40 wins also tied a team record for the most in any single season with the franchise (Pete Peeters posted 40 wins in 63 game for the Bruins in 1982-83), while Ullmark’s ability to hit the 40-win mark in just 49 games made him the fastest goalie in league history to hit such a milestone.

  • BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS - APRIL 26: Linus Ullmark #35 of the Boston Bruins reacts against the Florida Panthers during the second period in Game Five of the First Round of the 2023 Stanley Cup Playoffs at TD Garden on April 26, 2023 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

    BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS – APRIL 26: Linus Ullmark of the Bruins reacts against the Florida Panthers during the second period in Game 5 of the 2023 Stanley Cup Playoffs at TD Garden on April 26, 2023 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

  • Beyond the ‘traditional’ data, Ullmark also led the league in goals saved above average, with 48.54. That was over 12 goals better than second-place Sorokin, according to NaturalStatTrick. Ullmark also posted an .859 high-danger save percentage, which was tops among 22 goaltenders with at least 2,500 minutes of all-situation play, per NST.

    NST had Ullmark ranked fourth among that group of 22 in high danger goals saved above average, too, at 15.14. Only the Rangers’ Igor Shesterkin (15.94), the Isles’ Sorokin (16.77), and Colorado’s Alexandar Georgiev (16.84) were stronger than Ullmark on that front.

    Of course, and as is often the case, in-house analytics for all 32 NHL teams may tell a slightly different story. That could help or hurt Ullmark, depending on what they say.

  • Feb 17, 2022; Elmont, New York, USA;  New York Islanders goaltender Ilya Sorokin (30) makes a save as he is screened by Boston Bruins center Charlie Coyle (13) during the first period at UBS Arena. Mandatory Credit: Dennis Schneidler/USA TODAY Sports

    Feb 17, 2022; Elmont, New York, USA; New York Islanders goaltender Ilya Sorokin (30) makes a save as he is screened by Boston Bruins center Charlie Coyle (13) during the first period at UBS Arena. (Dennis Schneidler/USA TODAY Sports)

  • For what it’s worth, it does feel like the 27-year-old Sorokin is Ullmark’s greatest competition for the Vezina.

    Sorokin has both the raw data and advanced analytics to hang with Ullmark, and the Islander netminder had strong second-half push to put himself firmly in the conversation.

    In goal for 25 games from Jan. 27 through the end of the regular season, Sorokin recorded 16 wins (second-most in the league over that span) and posted a .928 save percentage (third-best in the NHL). Sorokin also allowed two goals or fewer in 16 of those 25 games, and posted three shutouts along the way.

    One thing that may hurt Sorokin in his race against Ullmark? The difference in their performance against Eastern Conference playoff-quality clubs. In net for 16 decisions against playoff-qualifying clubs in the East, Sorokin went 7-9-0 with a .918 save percentage, while Ullmark went 14-3-0 with a .928. That’s quite a difference. (It’s also worth noting that Sorokin did not have a single appearance against the Bruins in 2022-23, so it’s not as if that hurt him.)

    Hellebuyck, meanwhile, earned a nomination after 2022-23 that included a league-leading starts (64) and percentage of team wins (37 of 46, 80.4%). The Winnipeg ace also ranked second in the NHL in total saves (1,807) and third in shots faced (1,964), with both figures tops among goaltenders on playoff teams. In his 10 games facing 40-or-more shots, he posted an 8-1-1 record and .950 save percentage, allowing two goals or fewer seven times.

  • Jan 22, 2022; Boston, Massachusetts, USA;Boston Bruins left wing Brad Marchand (63) looks for a rebound in front of Winnipeg Jets goaltender Connor Hellebuyck (37)  during the third period at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

    Jan 22, 2022; Boston, Massachusetts, USA;Boston Bruins left wing Brad Marchand (63) looks for a rebound in front of Winnipeg Jets goaltender Connor Hellebuyck (37) during the third period at TD Garden. (Winslow Townson/USA TODAY Sports)

  • Ullmark (along with creasemate Jeremy Swayman) already captured the Williams Jennings Trophy as the league’s stingiest tandem in 2022-23, and a Vezina win would be the first of Ullmark’s NHL career.

    It would also make him the fourth goaltender in Bruins history to win the Vezina Trophy, joining a group that features Tuukka Rask (2014), Tim Thomas (2009 and 2011) and Pete Peeters (1983).

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