BOSTON – It took a couple of games for him to get there this postseason, but rookie netminder Jeremy Swayman finally got to make his first career Stanley Cup playoff start that subsequently turned into his first career playoff win as well.
After the Boston Bruins fell to 0-2 in their best-of-seven series against the Carolina Hurricanes with Linus Ullmark between the pipes, Swayman was given the call and stopped 25-of-27 shots in an impressively poised performance in a big pressure spot. Then after the win, it was all about the hugs.
First-career playoff win for Jeremy Swayman.
First-career postseason hug as well: pic.twitter.com/bnG6qs8geg
— Evan Marinofsky (@EvanMarinofsky) May 7, 2022
It wasn’t much of a surprise since it’s the kind of makeup Swayman showed throughout a stellar rookie season where he posted a 23-14-3 record along with a 2.41 goals against average and .914 save percentage.
But the 23-year-old Swayman struggled with consistency down the stretch in the month of April and that led Ullmark to get the first two playoff starts, where he wasn’t a difference-maker with an .860 save percentage in the two defeats.
Swayman said his mindset was simple going into a must-win for the Black and Gold prior to getting the 4-2 win over the Hurricanes in Game 3 at TD Garden: It was to get a win any way possible.
“Do everything you can to win. It’s that simple,” said Swayman, when asked what his mindset was headed into a massive Game 3. “That was special. The only other time I had [in the playoffs] was last year when COVID allowed fans to come in, so that was electric. But it’s a great experience every time you walk into a full building here and playoffs is a whole other level. It was so great to get the win in front of our hometown [Bruins fans].”
Swayman made 10 stops in the first period as the Bruins got things together before eventually pushing out to their first lead of the entire playoff series in the second period. And he was especially good during some penalty kill situations with a group in front of him that was blocking shots like Derek Forbort, who finished with nine blocked shots. Either way Swayman looked locked in while operating near-perfectly with the five man unit defending in front of him.
Just complete bedlam around Jeremy Swayman and the Bruins. pic.twitter.com/IYX9N3BTn4
— Conor Ryan (@ConorRyan_93) May 7, 2022
But it was his even-keeled approach to a big playoff moment that gave the Boston Bruins a calm backstop ready to make the timely saves that perhaps eluded Ullmark earlier in the postseason series vs. Carolina.
“Well, that’s his demeanor, and I think that won’t change. The further we go along, some of that will get tested obviously for a young guy. These are the most important games he has probably ever played, so we’ll see,” said Cassidy. “But we knew that about him. And right up to the end, we weren’t sure who would be our Game 1 [starter]. We just felt Ullmark had the better finish, so that’s the way we went.
“He worked on his game in between. You never know if you’re going to get a shot if the other guy stays hot. He got his opportunity; he was ready for it. I think it says what it always has: he is a good pro for a young guy. He’s a really good pro. He’ll get tested again [in Game 4], but he passed his first one.”
Certainly, Swayman is an X-Factor for the Boston Bruins with his ability to heat up and potentially steal a hockey game or two. That may be exactly what the Black and Gold need to truly fight their way back into a playoff series where the Hurricanes have looked extremely tough to beat.
The Boston Bruins are going to need Swayman’s best again on Sunday afternoon as they look to even the series and put pressure on the favored Carolina Hurricanes with the series headed back to Carolina for Game 5, for better or for worse for the Black and Gold.