It should be no surprise that the Boston Bruins were on the winning end of the 2023 NHL All-Star game much as they have been pretty much all season long.
David Pastrnak scored goals, Jim Montgomery was pushing the buttons and pulling the levers behind the bench with his son Colin right alongside him and Linus Ullmark stopped 10-of-13 shots faced, including a first half shut out of the Central Division in the finals before giving way to Andrei Vasilevskiy for the game’s second half where the Atlantic Division took the All-Star honors with 7-5 final victory at FLA Live Arena.
Pair that with Ullmark’s solid performance in Saturday’s “Tendy Tandem” at the NHL All-Star Skills Showcase where he even showcased a pretty healthy slap shot with his goalie stick, and the Boston Bruins netminder made a strong statement in his first All-Star appearance that it won’t be his only All-Star appearance.
“[That’s] really hard to do,” said Boston Bruins head coach Jim Montgomery, when asked about the perfect 6-for-6 in save chances while shutting down the Central shooters in the second game. “I was wondering if [a shutout in a 3-on-3 period has] ever been done before. It’s awesome to watch. He’s having an incredible year. And for [Ullmark] to come here and show why he’s here is pretty special.”
It’s difficult to do, in part, because there is zero physicality in these 3-on-3 shinny games and few defensemen or forwards grinding it out on the backcheck in the wide open exchanges, but still Ullmark credited star teammates like Pastrnak, Mitch Marner, Matthew Tkachuk and Dylan Larkin among others with hustling at both ends.
“It was great fun,” said Ullmark. “Guys were trying very hard. That’s one of the reasons [why they won]. They had sticks in the right lanes, all the right stuff. Almost was like a normal game which makes it a little easier to read but then you’re lucky sometimes as well.
“There’s a reason why they’re the best players out there. They don’t like to lose. It’s all fun and games, but at the end of the day you still want to be a winner. As a goalie we just try to stop pucks. We have to try our very best otherwise we would make fools out of ourselves.”
Ullmark even got to play the uncredited cameo role of Happy Gilmore’s caddy complete with his beer helmet during Saturday’s skills showcase, a fun little side project with David Pastrnak from Saturday afternoon’s exhibition game.
Just tap it in…
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It was all a fitting bookend to go with his shutout performance when it really mattered on Sunday to make his first foray into being an NHL All-Star a memorable experience at a time when he’s leading the league in wins (26), goals against average (1.90) and save percentage (.937) while playing the favorite as this season’s Vezina Trophy winner.