It just keeps getting better for impressive Boston Bruins rookie goaltender Jeremy Swayman.
With Tuukka Rask healthy again and Jaroslav Halak presumably coming off the COVID Protocol list at some point in the near future, there was certainly some kind of pressure on the 22-year-old rookie netminder to keep performing if he wants to stay in the NHL picture this season.
As has been the case throughout his last few weeks in Boston, though, the former University of Maine standout didn’t let anybody see him sweat. Instead, he went out and stood on his head with a 25-save performance punctuating a 3-0 shutout win over the New York Islanders at TD Garden.
It was his first career NHL shutout, but true to form Swayman was more enthused about the win and taking 4-of-4 points against the Islanders in a big showdown series.
“First and foremost, the win was the most important part of tonight’s game,” said Swayman. “The shutout was kind of the cherry on top. I was super-excited to get that accomplishment and I know I’ll remember it for a long time. But it couldn’t have been done without the defense in front of me and the players up front. I’m super happy with that team effort.”
That’s a rare, mature and team-oriented answer from a young goaltender at a position where things, even in hockey, can take on a bit of an individualistic tone sometimes. Swayman’s answers, his poise on the ice and his approach to everything being thrown at him speak volumes about his makeup as a person, and they’re all saying very good things.
The Islanders didn’t have a ton of shots, but they had more than a handful of quality scoring chances early in a game where it took a while for the Boston Bruins to get things into gear. Swayman gave them all the time they needed as he consistently turned away breakaways and odd-man rush chances from Brock Nelson, Anthony Beauvillier and a host of other Islanders players while frustrating them at every turn.
25 shots. 25 saves.
— Boston Bruins (@NHLBruins) April 17, 2021
“Sway was unbelievable the whole game. He was the only reason it was 1-0 after the first,” said an appreciative David Pastrnak. “We were a little slower in the first, but it was much better after that.”
It’s all true as Swayman stopped all 10 shots that he faced with his typically aggressive, unpredictable that’s equal measures poise and calm with a little bit of leaping assertiveness thrown in for good measure. It’s almost as if the hockey gods took the best qualities of both Rask and former Bruins goaltender Tim Thomas and mixed them all into a young prodigy that looks like he’s got the goods to the No. 1 goalie for the Boston Bruins for a longtime to come.
Needless to say, Bruce Cassidy has been impressed and the B’s as an organization haven’t ruled out Swayman pushing for a bigger-than-anticipated role down the stretch if he keeps turning the lights out on the NHL’s best teams.
“He’s very composed. He does have some of that ‘Tuukka’ technically sound and composed guy that never looks out of control. It’s good to see. Good for him. He’s a good kid. He works hard. Both of our young goaltenders have stepped up when we needed them, so good for those guys,” said Cassidy. “
Now Swayman is 4-1-0 in five appearances for the Bruins with a 1.78 goals against average and a .938 save percentage after winning nine of his first 10 starts for the Providence Bruins in his first pro season. Those kinds of numbers don’t life when it comes to a young goaltender breaking into the league, who has the footwork, athleticism, puck-tracking skills and glove hand to be a future frontline goaltender in the league.
In fact, the future could be a lot sooner than anybody could have anticipated with both Rask and Halak sitting on expiring contracts and Swayman leaving no doubts that he’s NHL-ready at this early point in his career. The question now for the Black and Gold is how much, how soon to give Swayman down the stretch and whether it’s better to leave him as the ace in the hole should Rask or Halak struggle down the stretch with the playoffs a month away.
Nobody would blame the Bruins if there’s even been conversations about running with a hot, young goaltender if he continues to win games, put up zeroes and save everything he’s supposed to in front of him. There’s no denying just good and promising Swayman has been in his first NHL stint with the Boston Bruins and it’s only appropriate that organizational plans are adjusted accordingly for what appears to be a special young hockey player.