On the surface, select Linus Ullmark Boston Bruins as the 2022 Unmasked Goaltender of the Year may seem like the easy way out given his dominance this season, but the reality of a calendar year-based award is that there is had similarly qualified candidates based solely on performance.
Ullmark could lead the NHL in wins with an incredible 20-1-1 record, 1.90 goals-against average and save percentage by a whopping .938 in the 2022-23 season, but there has been notable statistical competition since January 1. 1.
Igor Shesterkin of the New York Rangers is tied with Ullmark for the top of the NHL with 39 regular season wins in 2022, slightly ahead in save percentage (0.927-0.925) and is the defending Vezina Trophy winner as top goaltender of the League. Ilya Sorokin of the New York Islanders has a matching save percentage of .925 since Jan. 1, just like the Washington Capitals Darcy Kuemperwho also leads the NHL in shutouts (8) and won the Stanley Cup in 2022 with the Colorado Avalanche.
So what sets Ullmark apart from his puck-stopping peers for this award?
Since its debut in 2018, the Unmasked Goalkeeper of the Year Award has strived to recognize someone or something that has dominated conversations in the goalkeeping world over the past 12 months. It won’t always be a keeper either. It could be a job-related statistical revolution, an equipment innovation, a career-revitalizing coach, a new save technique, or even off-ice advocacy.
In addition to playing so well, Ullmark ticked many of those boxes in 2022.
At the top of this list is how Ullmark embraced – quite literally – the NHL trend towards tandems with a playing partner Jeremy Swayman. Their celebratory hug after a Bruins victory inspired imitation and a sense of joy even in youth hockey.
“We had no idea this was going to become what it is now and we’re very grateful for that, but we really want to understand that this isn’t for show at all,” Swayman told NHL.com earlier this season. “We do it because we love each other, and to see how it has impacted goalkeeping communities is pretty amazing.”
It’s also symbolic, considering how the NHL is relying less and less on No. 1 workaholics and using more job shares between the 1A and 1B tandems. Ullmark’s dominance this season has come in 23 starts, and that number probably wouldn’t be as high if Swayman hadn’t missed more than two weeks with a lower-body injury suffered Nov. 1.
“We know what it’s like to be a goaltender in Boston and it’s amazing to have the support of the one guy you compete with every day,” Swayman said, “But we’re going to do everything we can to help his team win, and that’s something pretty special.”
Video: [email protected]: Ullmark powers Bruins with 23-save shutout
Ullmark has also been a favorite in the goalkeeping community due to his gear and his willingness to talk about it.
Beyond the ability to print digital graphics on his pads, an innovation led by Bauer Inc., with bold designs dating back to his time with the Buffalo Sabers and exemplified more recently by the custom designs of the Classic Discover NHL Winter 2023 at Fenway Park on Monday, Ullmark will be happy to learn about the function of his equipment as well as fashion.
It’s not like every goaltender has to treat his equipment the way retired baseball star Ichiro Suzuki did his sticks, keeping them in humidifiers to regulate humidity, but with more and more young goalies in but seemingly oblivious to all the intricacies of their gear, Ullmark’s awareness of specific details remains refreshing. This includes continuing to use leather straps and metal buckles in an era dominated by nylon and Velcro, including adding custom options to facilitate a better feel and seal in the butterfly.
Ullmark’s obsession with gear began with his brother noting what players were using and browsing the former website of famed Swedish mask painter David Gunnarsson, before blossoming as a teenager.
“I didn’t become a fanatic, but definitely a fan of goalie equipment,” Ullmark told NHL.com. “I started writing down what each keeper wore, and if they changed, and what kind of sticks they used and what kind of tape. I was more focused on how the guys looked on the ice than the actual score or the game itself.
Perhaps the best example is Ullmark’s unique tape work. He rubs a washer on the top and bottom edges of the white tape on his stick blade to blacken them. The lower edge grips ice better and the upper edge improves vision.
“When I go out to play with the puck, I can see my blade all the time,” Ullmark said. “When you’re in white ice, a white blade can be hard to see, but it’s easy.”
This is the functional part. The fashion statement comes in the form of rubbing the puck on white tape on the heel of his stick.
“I wanted to do something that only I had,” said Ullmark, who scoured old photos of NHL goaltenders like Patrick Roy, Ed Belfour and Dominik Hasek to make sure no one else was doing it. ‘did. “I watched their tape works and no one had it, so I was pumped.”
As if the hugs and that level of enthusiasm for the gear weren’t enough, Ullmark also continued to evolve under the tutelage of Bruins goaltending coach Bob Essensa, adding fluidity to his game. It’s no surprise that Ullmark is a student volunteer at 29.
“That’s what goalkeeping is: adapt and evolve,” Ullmark said.
Ullmark also had to adapt to personal challenges. He recently opened up to NHL.com’s Amalie Benjamin about his father’s struggle with alcoholism. Much like fellow Swede Robin Lehner, who won the Unmasked award in 2019 in part for his ability to combine strong play with sanity defense, Ullmark’s willingness to talk about getting help should also be applauded. .
Add to that his obsession with equipment, the relationship with Swayman and his exceptional game, and Ullmark is a worthy choice as the 2022 Unmasked Goalkeeper of the Year and, like the award, a very unique celebration. of the position itself.