Linus Ullmark fulfills longtime dream in Bruins' 2023 Winter Classic win originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston
BOSTON -- Linus Ullmark had an absolute blast at the 2023 Winter Classic.
The Boston Bruins goaltender showed up to his postgame press conference sporting the old school Red Sox uniform that the entire team was wearing when it showed up to Fenway Park for Monday's outdoor game against the Pittsburgh Penguins. Ullmark had the full uniform covered, down to the 1950s style cleats, which he proudly showed off to reporters.
“I thought it was a cool idea,” Ullmark said of the Bruins players wearing classic Red Sox jerseys. “I like to dress up for these special occasions as well. I was lucky enough to find a pair of cleats from the ’50s. It was a lot of fun. We came together and I knew we had a vague idea of what it was going to be like. But (Sunday) when we actually got the gifts in front of us, it was mind-blowing. I loved every second of it.”
Sounds like someone who's pretty into baseball, right?
"Zero, none," Ullmark said when asked about his history with baseball.
Even if Ullmark is not much of a baseball guy, he didn't have any troubles giving an excellent performance at Fenway Park. The Bruins defeated the Pittsburgh Penguins 2-1 with a pair of Jake DeBrusk goals in the third period, but the comeback wouldn't have been possible without Ullmark.
The frontrunner for the Vezina Trophy made a couple huge saves in the first period as the Penguins came out playing fast and aggressive offensively. Pittsburgh eventually took a 1-0 lead in the second period on a Kasperi Kapanen goal. The Bruins were fortunate to be trailing by only one goal after 40 minutes given how poorly they had played.
“If it wasn’t for him we’d probably be down 3-0 after two," Bruins head coach Jim Montgomery said. "You’re not going to come back in those situations very often. He gives us the ability to win every night.”
Ullmark shut the door in the third period as the Penguins fought hard to tie the score. They nearly did in the final moments of the game, but Ullmark stayed calm, cool and collected as time ran out on Pittsburgh's comeback attempt.
"It was a lot of chaos there at the end,” Ullmark said of the game's final sequence. "Got a shot on net and tried to put it in the corner. We weren't able to keep it there, but I don’t know how much was left of the game at the end -- for some reason it felt like we had it under control. It was just pure joy and happiness afterward."
Ullmark had wanted to play in this kind of environment for a long time, ever since he saw Sidney Crosby and the Penguins win the first ever Winter Classic against the Buffalo Sabres back in 2008. Ullmark was watching in his native Sweden and hoped for a chance to experience the event. Fast forward to 2023 and not only was he able to play, he was arguably the best player on the ice as the winning goalie.
“It’s something that I’ve dreamt about for like 14 years since I saw the first one at home in Sweden. So I’ve always dreamt about it," Ullmark explained. "I was always very jealous of the people that would play before and had the opportunity. And now we had the opportunity and it's a dream come true."
If it wasn’t for him we’d probably be down 3-0 after two. You’re not going to come back in those situations very often. He gives us the ability to win every night.
Bruins head coach Jim Montgomery on Linus Ullmark
In many ways, it was fitting that Ullmark played a crucial role in the Bruins' win.
He's been the Bruins' best player all season. Montgomery described his consistency as "elite", and the numbers back that up. Ullmark leads all goaltenders in wins (20-1-1), save percentage (.938) and goals against average (1.90). He has allowed two goals or fewer in 15 of his last 19 games, including Monday's Winter Classic.
The Bruins have received enormous contributions from nearly their entire roster this season. So many players have exceeded expectations and provided the level of depth needed for Boston to have a chance of making a deep playoff run in the spring. Ullmark is at the top of that list. He's playing the best hockey of his career and has helped transform the Bruins from a very good team last season into the Stanley Cup favorite in early 2023.