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Why Bruins’ net should be Jeremy Swayman’s for remainder of playoffs

Why Bruins' net should be Jeremy Swayman's for remainder of playoffs

Why Bruins' net should be Jeremy Swayman's for remainder of playoffs originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston

Jeremy Swayman is the Boston Bruins' No. 1 goalie, and unless injury prevents him from doing his job at a high level, there's no way he should be taken out of the net for the remainder of the 2024 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Even if there's a small dip in performance — and it'll probably come at some point — the Bruins should still stick with him the rest of the way.

This isn't a radical idea, either. This is standard procedure for the playoffs. One goalie establishes himself as the best guy and the team relies on him to the end, whether it results in a championship or not. Tim Thomas did it. Tuukka Rask did it. Nearly every goalie who has won a Stanley Cup this century has done it.

Swayman was the NHL's best goalie in the first round, but his best performance of the playoffs so far came in Monday night's Game 1 against the Florida Panthers to open Round 2.

"The guy is always dialed in," defenseman Mason Lohrei told reporters postgame, via the NESN broadcast. "We're not worried about that. He's unbelievable and the backbone of this team. We're lucky to have him, and he's one of the best goalies in the league."

The Bruins won Game 1 by a 5-1 score. But don't let that margin fool you — the Panthers actually played pretty well for large stretches of the game. They had a good start, forcing Swayman to make nine saves in the first period, including a Grade A stop with the right pad just 45 seconds into the game.

The Panthers earned a 41-23 edge in scoring chances and a 17-12 lead in high-danger chances overall. Expected goals were 3.4 to 3.2 in favor of the Panthers, per analytics website Natural Stat Trick. Swayman made a playoff-high 38 saves on 39 shots for his fifth victory of the postseason.

Even when the Panthers created traffic in front of the net, Swayman did a great job locating the puck and making saves with his strong positioning.

“We made a lot of mistakes," Bruins head coach Jim Montgomery admitted postgame. "And if it’s not for Jeremy Swayman, that would have been a really — a lot closer game and maybe they come out on top. Like, we didn’t have enough scoring chances. Yeah, the score is not indicative of the way the game went.”

The hot goalie is a real thing this time of the year. We've seen lots of great teams go down because a goalie plays out of his mind for two weeks or more.

Not only is Swayman so dialed in right now, the confidence he is playing with is permeating through the entire team. There was a moment early in the third period of Game 1 when a huge scramble took place in front of the net, and after Swayman emerged with the puck, the broadcast showed him smiling from ear-to-ear. Amid the chaos, Swayman was having the time of his life.

"It seems like you can never rattle the guy," Lohrei said, via NESN. "He's always smiling, always singing along to songs. It's relaxing, at least for me. I see it and it kinda makes you remember it's just a game. He can go out there and play as well as he does and go and have fun, so it kinda lets you do the same."

The biggest case against Swayman playing nonstop is the workload and the potential for physical fatigue as a result. The Bruins are in uncharted territory with Swayman. Monday night's start was his sixth in a row. He had never started that many games consecutively in his NHL career.

But unless Swayman shows real signs that he needs a break, there's no reason for him to come out, assuming his performance remains anywhere close to his current level.

It's important to remember he's just 25 years old. He played in 44 of 82 regular season games. Panthers goalie Sergei Bobrovsky played in 58 games during the regular season. Swayman should be able to play a full playoff run. If the Bruins move on from Linus Ullmark in the offseason, Swayman will be expected to play every playoff game moving forward. So he might as well get used to that kind of workload right now.

Just how good has Swayman been through seven games? If you took a Conn Smythe Trophy (playoff MVP) vote today, he'd almost certainly be atop every ballot.

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It would be unreasonable to expect Swayman to maintain this kind of elite performance going forward. He literally has the second-best save percentage in one playoff run in league history (minimum five games played). But even a dip into the .925 to .935 save percentage range should be more than good enough to help the Bruins win multiple rounds for the first time since 2019.

So far, the playoffs could not have unfolded better for the Bruins at the goaltender position. The young netminder with the potential to be a franchise cornerstone for a decade is playing the best hockey of his career. There's no reason to halt that momentum. The Bruins should ride Swayman the rest of the playoffs and live with the results.

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