A strong case could be made that Linus Ullmark is playing better than just about every player in the NHL right now.
The Boston Bruins goaltender is having a phenomenal season, and his consistently elite performance is the No. 1 reason why the Original Six franchise leads the NHL standings with a 28-4-3 record entering Thursday.
One of Ullmark's best games of the season so far came Wednesday night against the New Jersey Devils on the road. After losing to the Bruins at home last week, the Devils were fired up for this matchup and outplayed the B's for long stretches.
The Devils racked up 43 scoring chances and 16 high-danger chances in all situations. Ullmark was constantly under pressure (see the red heatmap in the graphic below) but stood tall and only allowed one fluky goal amid the chaos.
This sequence in the second period was absolutely incredible.
"There were three saves there in the second (period) that were just unreal," Bruins head coach Jim Montgomery told reporters after the game. "I couldn't believe he saw the puck because I hardly saw it from the bench."
Ullmark finished with 30 saves on 31 shots as the Bruins won 3-1 in a game that, without excellent goaltending, would have played out far worse for Boston.
With a league-leading 20-1-1 record, Ullmark has tied Tuukka Rask for the most wins by a Bruins goalie in a calendar year at 39.
Ullmark's play is not just a hot start to the season anymore.
We're not far away from the halfway point of the entire regular season, and he's already played (24) more than half of the amount of games he saw last season (41). Sure, the Bruins still rank as one of the best defensive teams in the league. They have a strong defensive structure, plenty of depth on the blue line and some of the best two-way forwards in the world.
But that doesn't guarantee good goaltending. The Bruins still allow their fair share of quality scoring chances -- just look at Wednesday night's game versus the Devils -- and Ullmark has bailed out his teammates time and time again.
He leads the league in most of the important goalie categories right now.
There are many differences between this Bruins team and last season's squad.
Coaching is obviously a huge one. Montgomery's system has unlocked the talent and potential of many players. The team is playing with supreme confidence as a result -- just look at all the deficits they've erased and their league-best plus-28 scoring differential in the third period.
Goaltending is the primary reason for the team's success this season, though. Ullmark and backup goalie Jeremy Swayman played well in 2021-22, but the jump from good goaltending to best-in-the-league goaltending is a meaningful uptick. The Bruins have a .927 save percentage as a team. No other team is above .917 entering Thursday.
That's a massive gap between Bruins goalies and the rest of the league. Ullmark is driving most of that success, and it's why he's the team's MVP and the Vezina Trophy favorite entering 2023.