For as well as Jeremy Swayman has played the last month-plus, you could forgive the Boston Bruins if they felt it best to keep Jaroslav Halák as the backup goalie this postseason.
But Swayman’s play has earned him the gig, which Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy confirmed Tuesday night.
The 22-year-old has just 10 games of NHL experience, but team president Cam Neely and general manager Don Sweeney both are confident in the first-year pro.
“There?s not a big book on him for NHL players right now,” Neely said over Zoom. “But what I see with him is just, he?s so calm and poised and I like how he challenges the shooters. He comes out, he gets to the top of the paint. So, there?s a little less to see when you?re looking where to put the puck. His calmness and his poise has really been impressive to me.
“Just based on the short sample size that we got and the way he?s played, from my perspective and probably the players’ perspective, they?re going to be confident playing in front of him. You don?t get experience until you start playing, so that?s how you gain your experience. So, we?ll see what happens here in the playoffs.”
Sweeney shed more light on how the decision was made to roll with Swayman.
“First and foremost, the organizational philosophy is to have the discussions and put a blueprint in place,” Sweeney said. “Bruce (Cassidy) decides who plays that particular night and we discuss moving forward, what’s the best lineup that we can have as an organization to win? Ultimately, that’s generally where decisions lie. You have different opinions, and that’s really what we’re paid for. It pays in experience in this business. But ultimately, he is the one who sends guys over the boards, and he has full authority to decide. Bob (Essensa) is a big part of that, Mike Dunham is a part of that. It’s just where players are at and their development as a player and development staff, who can handle what.
“But we just got to the place where Sway was playing really well, giving us a great opportunity to win each and every night. We reward the players that have done that. I think that’s something that our organization stands by. We’re not trying to rush players, we’re not trying to put players in situations where they can’t handle. Last night’s a great example of, some players would have been intimidated in that situation, and Jeremy wasn’t. It’s the next step. He’s got a lot to still go through, but these are experiences he’ll benefit and our team benefits from. Obviously, Jaro continues to be a healthy, healthy option for us now that he’s recovered.”
Overall, Swayman’s play was just too strong to ignore.
“It’s a small sample size, but the wins and losses and stops add up,” Sweeney said. “You look at how your team has played in front of him and what you expect from percentages and high dangers and situations that he’s handled. Teams that we’ve played against are somewhat common for this season, but we’ve put him on the road, and we’ve put him in situations and he’s handled it well. For us, you’re right, there’s still a lot to be determined and there’s plenty of young goaltenders that have taken huge steps forward and minor steps back. We’ll see, but again, what we’ve thrown at Jeremy up until this point, he’s handled well, and we expect him to continue.”
Obviously, the hope for the Bruins is that Swayman never has to play, because that would mean Rask is healthy and effective. But if called upon, it seems the organization from top to bottom is confident in the Maine product.