He’s replaced Beskar with Warrior, and we’ve yet to meet his adorable green friend with force capabilities, but through two games, one thing has been made clear abundantly clear to all of us: This Is The Sway.
Summoned to the NHL after just nine AHL games (not just nine AHL games this year, but in his entire pro career), what the Bruins have gotten from Jeremy Swayman is straight out of Mandalore.
In the Boston crease with a chance to deliver what felt like a knockout blow to the chasing Flyers, the 22-year-old stopped 40-of-42, and came just a few extra stops away from setting an NHL debut record for saves, to bury Philly. That night even featured an absurd 23-of-25 second-period effort where the Bruins outright abandoned him. (In his first NHL game!)
And Thursday proved that it wasn’t a one-night act, as Swayman once again stood tall, this time denying the Capitals on all but two of their 33 shots. In fact, the only time the Capitals were able to beat Swayman was with the B’s down two skaters.
“He looks [extremely composed] in the net, acts that way between periods, acts that way before games,” Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy noted of his fourth-string netminder. “You don’t want to jump to anything. It’s two good hockey games on the road, right? No bad goals yet. All good shots that have beaten him.”
This is the key here, really. It’s taken almost a complete breakdown in front of Swayman to beat him.
Jakub Voracek ended hopes of a career-long shutout for Swayman only after David Krejci threw a pass at Jakub Zboril’s feet and Zboril wiped out, which opened the door for a two-on-one with Steven Kampfer as Swayman’s only help. Given the talent on the Philly side of that battle with Travis Konecny feeding Voracek, getting a save would’ve required The Force.
And Shayne Gostisbehere’s goal two and a half minutes later came with the Bruins drowning in their own zone, and with Trent Frederic running around without a prayer after losing his stick and skating as a by all means defenseless defender.
Then came the goals in Washington, which again, came with the Bruins on the wrong end of a 5-on-3 advantage. That’s a lot of talent on that Capital power-play unit to try and hold off the board for a full two minutes. Perhaps even downright impossible when considering the Bruins’ current situation on the backend, with no Brandon Carlo or Charlie McAvoy.
And the Capitals did not miss, scoring two goals in 19 seconds.
But in both instances where the Bruins fell apart to quick strikes that could’ve swung momentum the other way in a jump to light speed, it didn’t matter. It didn’t lead to a full-on collapse.
Swayman, who mixes a blend of aggressiveness and poise that seems destined to drive shooters made on a shot-to-shot basis, just kept smiling. And, most importantly, kept on saving.
“I mean he shouldn’t have gotten upset because they were good shots, but he could have start second guessing himself, right?” Cassidy acknowledged. “I just think he moves on. Same thing [happened in Philly]: We have a two-goal lead, they score good goals where we broke down, and he just gets back in there. And simply put, I think he just worries about making the next save, which is a great mentality to have at any position, but particularly a goaltender.”
“A great mentor of mine, [Maine assistant coach] Alfie Michaud, always taught me not to get too high or too low,” Swayman offered. “And that’s taught every day. It’s continuing to learn. You’re never going to master it. But you have to control what you can control. And if Ovechkin’s going to shoot the puck and he’s going to score, it’s the next shot. That’s all you got to worry about. And that’s all I’m worried about.”
It’s the kind of calming presence that this Bruins team — in the midst of a huge week with multiple head-to-heads with a team that’s chasing them and with a team they’re chasing, and down multiple, important bodies — undoubtedly needed.
Perhaps the best example of that? When first-year full-time NHLer Jeremy Lauzon’s game truly bottomed out in a 4-1 loss to the Penguins a week ago, his mistakes ended up in the back of the net (then occupied by Daniel Vladar) and put the Bruins in a Sarlacc pit. Those were the kind of mistakes that just couldn’t be made when being asked to support an obviously inexperienced netminder get through the night without having to do it all. But Lauzon’s since climbed his way out, and has made game-changing, confident plays at the other end of the rink in both of Swayman’s starts.
“I think it absolutely does have an effect on any young player when you see a guy back there that’s ready to do his part and more to help you out and get the game back on track,” Cassidy admitted. “If I was in that position, I would [feed off Swayman] if I knew the goalie back there was having a good time [and was] ready to bail me out.”
Jeremy Swayman denies Garnet Hathaway on the breakaway. pic.twitter.com/qjz9a1Fsvd— Conor Ryan (@ConorRyan_93) April 8, 2021
“We heard he was a great goalie, but it’s a whole different situation and game at this level,” Brad Marchand, who has scored game-winning shorties in back-to-back Swayman starts, said. “And he’s as advertised. He competes very hard, phenomenal kid off the ice, great to be around. And he’s a great goalie. I mean, he’s quick [and] competes. He just seems to have great positioning. So it’s great that he’s stepping up at a time like this.”
Whether or not this evolves from a series to a saga is anybody’s guess. There’s almost certain to be a comedown when there’s more film and teams pick up on Swayman’s tendencies. (You should also expect some sort of fall, as nobody posts a .950 forever.) But in the now, there’s no denying the importance of what this means for both Swayman and the Bruins.
“A coach from Maine had a great quote— ‘You can’t experience at Target,'” Swayman relayed. “And that’s what I’m doing right now. I’m learning every day whether it’s at practice or at the hotel or traveling or at a game.”
All while we’re learning just what The Sway can bring to the NHL ranks.