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  • What we learned: Linus Ullmark shines in Bruins’ thrilling OT win

    Tim Rosenthal April 9, 2022

    The Boston Bruins bent but didn’t break against the two-time defending Stanley Cup champions.

    A relentless and desperate Lightning bunch found their groove in the final 20 after only landing six shots on net during the middle stanza. Yet, the Bruins went into the locker room at the second intermission tied at 1-1 after Pierre-Eduoard Bellemare capitalized on a Trent Frederic turnover to net the equalizer a mere 2:41 after Jake DeBrusk netted his 22nd goal of the season 47 ticks into the middle 20.

    DeBrusk had his skating legs going from the get-go. But the Bruins needed timely stops from Linus Ullmark during the final stanza amid Tampa’s surge. Ullmark was up to the task with 11 saves in the third, including one on a Brayden Point breakaway to ultimately force overtime.

    Even with the Lightning’s strong puck possession in the first half of the 3-on-3 overtime, the Bruins only needed Ullmark to make one more timely stop. Down the other end, they scored on their only shot against Andrei Vasiliveisky of the extra session.

    DeBrusk set up the winning sequence after winning a puck battle against Brayden Point behind the net. An assertive Charlie Coyle then circled the net and promptly fired home his 16th tally of the campaign to secure Boston’s 2-1 victory.

    Here’s what we learned as the Bruins took over sole possession of third place in the Atlantic Division after notching their 95th point in 2021-22.

    Ullmark is picking up the slack for struggling Jeremy Swayman

    Swayman provided dazzling moments between the pipes during his first full NHL season. But the former University of Maine standout has recently hit a wall after allowing 13 goals over his last three starts.

    Ullmark found himself in a complementary role to Swayman since the latter returned from Providence following Tuukka Rask’s retirement. Over the past few weeks, Bruce Cassidy and goalie coach Bob Essensa slotted Swayman for the bulk of their schedule, with Ullmark essentially starting every third game.

    Perhaps the Bruins will slightly alter their goaltending schedule as Ullmark embarks on his best stretch of the season. The former Sabre notched victories in each of his last six starts, posting a spectacular .938 save percentage during that span.

    Cassidy and company needed a stout outing from Ullmark against one of the world’s elite netminders. Both Ullmark and Vasilievsiky provided their respective squads with multiple timely stops in a spirited late-season divisional contest. But Ullmark and the Bruins got the upper hand and secured their third victory in four meetings against the uber-talented Lightning.

    “They have a world-class goaltender. You’re going to need a great game from that position if you’re going to beat Tampa typically, and I thought it was a good goaltenders’ battle tonight,” Cassidy told reporters afterward. “We were just one better.”

    Ullmark’s rebound control has improved significantly with each start. He looks more comfortable moving post to post and cutting down shooting angles.

    The on-ice intangibles helped Ullmark form a dynamic tandem with Swayman. The developments come at a good time, with Ullmark on the cusp of his first career postseason appearance.

    “It’s fun to play these sort of games getting closer to the playoffs, and you’re actually a part of it,” Ullmark said following his 28-save performance. “There’s lots at stake and there are still 11 games to go and focus on. We’re not trying to get ahead of ourselves, but we know we’re playing for home-ice advantage and we have to bring it every night.”

    DeBrusk continued his post-deadline hot streak

    The trade deadline came and went, but DeBrusk’s stock continues to rise. Whether he stays in Boston in the long term — even after signing a two-year extension on deadline day — or continues his career elsewhere is anyone’s guess.

    For now, the Bruins remain happy to watch DeBrusk thrive in a top-line role with Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron. The trio factored into Boston’s first goal with DeBrusk firing a nifty backhanded tally past Vasilevisky on a stout feed from Marchand; Bergeron also assisting.

    No question DeBrusk had his skating legs from the start, firing five shots on net in 16:48 of ice time. He created numerous quality scoring chances with his high motor. In the end, he came through with a risky yet timely helper on Coyle’s OT winner.

    “In overtime, it’s kind of risky down there having that many guys behind the net. A puck pops loose and they’re on a 2-on-1 or a fast break. I don’t know if the guy chipped it, but JD [DeBrusk] I think he put his leg out, and [the puck] bounced to me,” Coyle said. “So good on Jake to create a bounce like that, especially in those tight corners, and then I got a good chance there at the net by myself.”

    DeBrusk has tallied points in six of his last seven games, notching seven goals and three assists over that stretch. The 2015 first-rounder has nearly produced a point per game in his 21 tilts with Bergeron and Marchand.

    The Bruins should feel confident in a potential postseason meeting with Tampa

    Another Bruins-Maple Leafs first-round matchup would take place if the season ended today. Even after a pair of losses to Toronto, including a recent uninspiring 6-4 setback, the B’s should still feel good about themselves in another potential showdown against their Original Six rivals.

    They should also feel confident if they renew acquaintances with the Lightning.

    The tensions in a seven-game playoff series rise significantly with each matchup. Even the tightest regular-season matchups can’t mimic the intensity of postseason hockey. But the first 82 games can serve as a barometer, especially in the final weeks of a given campaign.

    Unlike years past, the Bruins match up well against the Lightning. They managed a way to victory without David Pastrnak and Hamups Lindholm in Friday’s goaltending duel. Even with an off night from the third line, the Bruins have four balanced forward lines to work with.

    Vasilevisky’s experience gives the Lightning the goaltending edge over a playoff unproven Swayman and Ullmark. Tampa likely has an advantage defensively even with a healthy Lindholm in Boston’s top-four.

    But the Bruins never hesitated matching Tampa’s speed and physicality in each of their four meetings. If anything, the regular season provided the Bruins a building block for a potential springtime matchup against their Atlantic foes.

    “Playoffs are a different animal. But we built our game this year, especially against those guys,” Coyle said. “You play well and you know you’re capable of doing that against a certain team it can help. But you’ve got to bring it every night. A [playoff] series is definitely different, but we want to play well against those teams during the year. That can help us going forward, and it’s nice to size up against those top teams and see how you fare against them.”

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    Tim Rosenthal

    Tim Rosenthal serves as the Managing Editor of Bruins Daily. He started contributing videos to the site in 2010 before fully coming on board during the Bruins' Stanley Cup run in 2011. His bylines over the last decade have been featured on Boston.com, FoxSports.com, College Hockey News, Patch and Inside Hockey. You can follow Tim on Twitter @_TimRosenthal.


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