BOSTON -- The Bruins did not play their best game in their playoff opener on Monday night. The Florida Panthers controlled the contest for much of the opening 40 minutes, as the B's got used to life without Patrice Bergeron, who sat out due to a lingering illness.
Perhaps that illness, which has been making its way through the Boston dressing room the last two weeks, played into the team's skaters sporting a lethargic look to open Monday's Game 1 against the Panthers. But the guy in net had no such issues to open the postseason.
Linus Ullmark was the same Linus Ullmark that we saw throughout the regular season: A brick wall with no cracks. Ullmark was considered a gametime decision on Monday morning because of the bug hitting the B's, but he was on top of his game once the puck dropped.
As the Panthers put a barrage of shots on Ullmark, outshooting Boston 21-10 midway through the second period, the goalie continued the torrid play that has him sitting as the favorite to win the Vezina Trophy. Ullmark stopped 31 of the 32 shots, despite having Florida throw the kitchen sink and anything else they had his way. Eight of Florida's shots in the first period came a few feet from the net with plenty of traffic around Ullmark.
Ullmark turned away all of those shots. His only blemish on the night was a second-period tally by Matthew Tkachuk, which Ullmark didn't really have a chance at stopping thanks to a rare own-zone turnover by B's defenseman Dmitry Orlov.
That made it a 2-1 game early in the second period, before Jake DeBrusk added an insurance goal for Boston toward the end of the frame. The Bruins got their 5-on-5 attack back in order in the third period and controlled the game for much of the third period, outshooting Florida 13-8.
Ullmark wasn't tested nearly as much in the third as he was in the first two periods. But he made a great stop on a point-blank look by Sam Reinhart early in the frame, and then another solid stop on a Brandon Montour snap shot with under five minutes to play.
"I thought he was excellent," Bruins head coach Jim Montgomery said of Ullmark. "I thought he was cool, calm, just real confident, seeing the puck really well, steering rebounds. It looked like there was a lot of chaos at our net. They took a lot of shots at bad angles, and he's just great at steering pucks to bad areas or smothering them up. It really provides us a lot of confidence, allows us to control the chaos, so to speak."
Ullmark, who was 0-2 in net for Boston last postseason, said that these are the moments where everyone in the Bruins locker room expects to shine.
"We've always said that this is what we're meant to do. This is the process that we're talking about. We've been building for this for a long time, to really be prepared for when the puck gets dropped every period, every game. All those 82 games beforehand was just us trying to ramp it up, and this is the moment where you've got to build your game," said Ullmark. "You're not going to win the Stanley Cup with just one win; you've got to keep doing it over and over and over again."
Ullmark isn't surprised that Boston was able to overcome the loss of Bergeron. They've been the best team in hockey from the jump, but they had plenty of adversity to overcome throughout the campaign. They started the season without Brad Marchand and Charlie McAvoy, and then dealt with injuries to DeBrusk and David Krejci.
Boston stood tall throughout it all, and that will be no different in the playoffs.
"It's all the trust we have for each other. We believe in ourselves; we believe in the depth that we have, the team that we have," said Ullmark. "It doesn't matter who is out there; there's always another guy who is able to step in and fill the shoes of it. Now, we've just got to keep it rolling here and bring those guys that are out back."
The Bruins didn't have their best game on Monday night, but they didn't need to thanks to Ullmark. He made all the stops that he had to on Monday night, earning his first career playoff win.
"It was nice," he said after the victory. "Now we've just got to get 15 more."
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