Linus Ullmark was expected to reach career win No. 100 at some point during the 2022-23 NHL season. The Boston Bruins goaltender entered the campaign with 76 wins.
Getting it on Jan. 18, just 44 games into the season, seemed almost unfathomable.
But in fairness to Ullmark, his play throughout the year has been unfathomable. The 29-year-old goalie is the favorite for the Vezina Trophy, and he's starting to run away with it, quite frankly. He's won 24 games (24-2-1) this season. He had 26 wins all of last season.
Ullmark turned in another fantastic performance Wednesday on the road against the New York Islanders. He made 25 saves on 26 shots (.962 save percentage) and shut out the Islanders over the final two periods as the Bruins earned a 4-1 win for Ullmark's 100th career victory.
"I got to share it with probably the most special group in this league, so I couldn't be more happy," Ullmark told reporters in New York following the win.
The Islanders came out hot in the first period. They had more energy than the Bruins and played with a more aggressive nature, which was rewarded when Zach Parise put New York on top 15:41 into the game. It took a little while for the B's to get going, and Ullmark kept the score close until that happened.
"It has been overwhelming. I'm not gonna lie," Ullmark told reporters. "It has been a different kind of a season, definitely. It's taken a lot of me mentally to keep going, and not be satisfied, because it's hard if you've had the luxury now for half of the season to be at this point. Usually, you're at this point at the end of the season. I have a lot of gratitude for all the boys in here that go to work every single night. Kudos to them."
Ullmark leads his goaltending peers in several of the prominent statistics entering Thursday.
One of the most remarkable parts of Ullmark's season so far has been his consistency. He has allowed two or fewer goals in 21 of the 29 games he's played in. He has given up more than two goals in consecutive games only once, and Boston won both of those matchups anyway.
Ullmark gave credit to Brad Marchand and the Bruins veterans for keeping the group focused and not allowing complacency or a sense of satisfaction creep in.
"We have a lot of guys on this team that have been around the league for a long time, and they know that you can't get satisfied because there's such small details that can make something crumble," Ullmark said. "(Marchand) is one of those guys. He's always honest with me, if he feels like I'm taking a day off, he's always right there up my ass and tells me to get going."
Ullmark's performance in 2022-23 is no longer just a nice start. We're not 20 games into the season anymore. We're past the halfway point and his stats are actually getting better.
He is the x-factor for this team going into the Stanley Cup Playoffs. It's quite difficult to imagine the Bruins losing to any opponent four times in a seven-game series if Ullmark is going to play at this level on a consistent basis.
This kind of goaltending, combined with the Bruins' scoring depth and excellent special teams (No. 3 on the power play, No. 1 on the penalty kill) make this squad an absolute juggernaut with almost no weaknesses.