The Boston Bruins are not unbeatable, but it's going to be very, very difficult for any of the other 15 teams in the 2023 Stanley Cup Playoffs to defeat them four times in seven games if Linus Ullmark is locked in.
The Bruins' No. 1 goalie made his fourth consecutive start of the first round Sunday and picked up his third win over the Florida Panthers. After a lackluster performance (five goals against) in a Game 2 loss, Ullmark bounced back in impressive fashion by making 70 saves on 74 shots (.946 save percentage) in two games at FLA Live Arena.
He kept the Panthers off the board early in Game 4 with a diving save:
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In four games, Ullmark has posted a .926 playoff save percentage with a 2.55 GAA. He has a .939 save percentage during 5-on-5 action. The Swedish netminder also has been a key component of a Bruins penalty kill that is 9-for-10 in the series against a very talented Panthers power play.
Ullmark is the favorite to win the Vezina Trophy after leading all goalies in wins, save percentage, 5-on-5 save percentage, GAA and goals saved above expected during the regular season. He hasn't been as dominant in the playoffs, but he's still performing at a high enough level for the Bruins to win a championship.
And if you look around the league, several Vezina-caliber goaltenders have struggled and played a lot worse than Ullmark in the playoffs. Islanders goalie Ilya Sorokin has a .910 save percentage and a 2.96 GAA and his team trails 3-1 to the Hurricanes. Connor Hellebucyk has a .894 save percentage and a 3.24 GAA for a Jets team trailing the Golden Knights 2-1. Andrei Vasilevskiy has a putrid .853 save percentage and a 4.22 GAA for the Lightning, who trail the Leafs 2-1.
Overall, Ullmark's performance and demeanor have been very encouraging for the Bruins in Round 1.
Here are some other notes from Bruins-Panthers Game 4 and around the NHL.
--The Panthers had a 54-40 lead in shot attempts and a 30-20 edge in shots on net at 5-on-5 in Game 4. And yet the Bruins still had a 21-17 advantage in scoring chances and a 10-6 lead in high-danger chances during those minutes. That's evidence of the Panthers throwing a lot of pucks on net but not creating anywhere near enough Grade A scoring chances. The Bruins did a great job clearing pucks from the net and winning puck battles in the low slot.
-- The Bruins dominated in the faceoff circle, which is impressive when you consider Patrice Bergeron -- who ranked No. 2 in faceoff percentage (61.1) during the regular season -- was out of the lineup due to injury.
Charlie Coyle won 15 of his 19 faceoffs. Tomas Nosek won 14 of his 18 draws. Pavel Zacha went 5-for-10. Boston won 63.5 percent (40-for-63) of all faceoffs Sunday.
-- Charlie McAvoy set the tone physically in Game 3 and Game 4. His huge hit on Panthers forward Eetu Luostarinen during the opening minute of Game 3 was an energy boost to the Bruins. The star defenseman also unloaded on Panthers left wing Matthew Tkachuk with a massive hit in the second period of Game 4.
McAvoy's 25 hits lead the entire playoffs through Sunday.
-- The Bruins are 21-2 all-time in series when they hold a 3-1 lead, including a 15-2 series record when starting those series at home. The Panthers are 0-2 in their history when trailing a best-of-seven series 3-1. Teams with a 3-1 series lead have won 90.6 percent (299-31) of those series in league history.
-- Road teams were 8-0 on Saturday and Sunday combined, including the Bruins' Game 4 win.
-- The Bruins should try to finish off the Panthers as soon as possible and get some much-needed rest before the second round. If the B's advance, they will play the winner of Lightning vs. Leafs in Round 2, and that series looks like it will go seven games for the second straight year. A potential Game 7 is scheduled for Monday, May 1.