BOSTON -- The Bruins didn't play anywhere near their best in Game 1 of the team's first-round playoff series against the Florida Panthers on Monday night.
The Panthers earned a 61-51 edge in shot attempts, a 29-23 lead in shots on net, a 33-25 advantage in scoring chances and a 16-9 differential in high-danger chances during 5-on-5 action. Florida's expected goals scored in all situations was 3.14, per Natural Stat Trick's model.
But the visitors scored only once, and the primary reason for their lack of offensive success was Bruins goalie Linus Ullmark. He gave a fantastic performance in the Bruins' 3-1 victory at TD Garden.
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Boston's biggest advantage coming into this series was goaltending, and that became even more clear after Game 1. Ullmark was dominant while Panthers goalie Alex Lyon gave up two soft-ish goals.
“I thought he was excellent,” Bruins head coach Jim Montgomery said of his starting netminder. "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 from bad angles and he’s just great with steering pucks to bad areas or smothering them up. It really provides us a lot of confidence and allows us to control the chaos so to speak."
Ullmark made 31 saves on 32 shots (.969 save percentage). The lone goal allowed came off a turnover by Bruins defenseman Dmitry Orlov and a great finish by Panthers left wing Matthew Tkachuk.
Ullmark was especially clutch in the second period when the Bruins kind of let the Panthers back in the game.
Florida had a 24-16 advantage in shot attempts and a 12-6 lead in scoring chances at 5-on-5 during the second frame. They spent a lot of time in the Bruins' zone and fired shot after shot at Ullmark from the point with plenty of traffic in front of the net. Ullmark stood tall after Tkachuk's goal as the Bruins weathered the Panthers' onslaught and eventually took a 3-1 lead when Jake DeBrusk scored with 2:28 remaining in the period.
Ullmark's start to the 2023 Stanley Cup Playoffs couldn't have been more different than last season's first-round Game 1 versus the Carolina Hurricanes. He allowed four goals on 24 shots in a 5-1 loss on the road. Ullmark gave up four goals in Game 2 and didn't see the net again for the rest of the series.
What was different about this playoff opener?
"Those questions are always hard. You can’t really put a finger on it," Ullmark said. “It was nice to get the first game here at the Garden, I would say. It was a little more pleasant than starting away for the first one. So, yeah, I felt more comfortable definitely playing this one."
Ullmark lifting up the Bruins when they didn't play their best hockey happened many times throughout the franchise's historic 2022-23 regular season. He became just the seventh goalie to win the position's triple crown by leading the league in wins (40), save percentage (.938) and goals against average (1.89). He's the clear favorite to win the Vezina Trophy as a result.
One question entering Game 1 was whether Ullmark's stellar regular season play would carry into the playoffs. He doesn't have much postseason experience and his first two outings last spring weren't exactly his finest hour.
But it's pretty clear after watching him Monday night that he's still locked in and very much on top of his game.
"It was nice," Ullmark said. "Now we've just got to get 15 more."