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Haggerty: Sagging Bruins Should Have Given Red-Hot Swayman A Look

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The Boston Bruins need something to get excited about as they continue to struggle in the morass of an offense not producing enough goals.

They also have an opening for an emergency goaltender starter on Tuesday night against the PPG Paints Arena against the Pittsburgh Penguins with Tuukka Rask physically unable to make that start. This should have been about the Bruins giving rookie goaltender Jeremy Swayman a look for his first NHL start as they look for something to rally around and get excited about.

Instead they will give 23-year-old Dan Vladar his first NHL start after he appeared in mop-up duty for the Bruins during last season’s playoff run in the Toronto bubble, as Bruce Cassidy announced on Tuesday morning.

Vladar has been backing up Jaroslav Halak over the last week as he’s made four straight starts for the Black and Gold, and he’s certainly paid his dues to get the NHL look. And the .923 save percentage and 2.01 goals against average for Vladar for the P-Bruins this season is nothing to be embarrassed about as he’s performed well too. All of that played into the ultimate organizational decision made by the Black and Gold.

“Who was the best fit to go in? Was it Vladar or was it Swayman? And those decisions go first to Goalie Bob [Essensa] and to Mike Dunham down in Providence. It’s essentially the goaltending department and they make the recommendation. I can’t weigh in too on that because both goaltenders have not played in the NHL, other than Vladdy getting mop-up duty that we all know was a tough spot for him,” said Bruce Cassidy. “We’re going to judge them on their resumes, and the resumes for both guys are very good.

“They’re comfortable with both and I think either one would have been a good call. Vladdy does have more experience and he’s been a pro longer. He’s earned the right to get in there. There’s the argument, ‘well, who gives us the best chance to win?’ It might very well be Jaro [Halak] but we don’t want to do that. They chose Vladar so he’s going in. So we need to play well in front of the young goaltender.”

But Swayman, the 2017 fourth round pick, has done everything right since turning pro this season after years at the University of Maine and looks like he might be the future No. 1 guy for the Boston Bruins. Swayman was lights out in limited time during training camp in January, and now he’s undefeated to start his AHL career with a 7-0-0 record along with a 1.57 goals against average and a .942 save percentage.

The Bruins have scored two even-strength goals in their last five games and need a goaltender that could potentially steal a game for them in the second night of road back-to-backs against the Pittsburgh Penguins. Swayman could, and should, have been that guy given the way he’s played and his potential ceiling with the Black and Gold.

Could it have backfired on the Bruins if the 22-year-old isn’t quite ready for prime time or if he stumbles a little bit in his first NHL appearance?

Sure, certainly there is risk there and a bad performance could put a hurting on a confidence level that’s probably at an all-time high for Swayman right now. But the Boston Bruins need two points and something to get excited about in the worst way possible right now and Swayman could have provided that given the flawless way he’s played early in his pro career. Maybe Vladar can bring that rookie enthusiasm and energy that will get the struggling B’s to rally around him, but it feels like more of a long shot than Swayman throwing up zeroes in the AHL right now.

The B’s should have brought on Swayman and to see what the kid can do with Rask out of commission, and 35-year-old Halak badly in need of a rest after a rough first period on Monday night. Instead it will be Darth Vladar and they will be second-guessed to high heaven if Tuesday night turns into another loss for a scuffling Black and Gold group.

Joe Haggerty has covered the Boston Bruins and the NHL for 18 years with NBC Sports Boston, WEEI.com, the Boston Metro and the Woburn Daily Times, and currently serves as lead Bruins reporter and columnist for Boston Hockey Now. Haggs always strives to capture the spirt of the thing any way that he can.

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