BOSTON - There was a time - not so long ago - when Jeremy Swayman admits that he would have fit right into the goalie stereotype. When he first arrived at the University of Maine nearly four years ago, the netminder locked things down on game days, keeping conversations to a minimum in an effort to maintain his focus on the task at hand.
But as the years have ticked by, the 22-year-old has realized he thrives on the moment.
The crowd, the excitement, the buzz of an arena are the things that give him the juice he needs between the pipes - not a cone of silence.
"I think it's gotten better over the years," said Swayman. "I think when I first started, I was that goalie who didn't talk, was super focused. As the years went on, I was more progressively getting into the crowd, into the moment, having fun with it. That's just the best."
So, it makes perfect sense that when a couple of young fans held up a sign during warmups on Friday night endorsing Swayman for President in 2024, the backstop couldn't help but skate over to the glass to engage for a selfie.
"I was a fan once when I was a little kid," said Swayman. "I would be so excited when a player would acknowledge me. I just want to give back. I know how much it means to other kids. That was a pretty cool sign, they put a lot of effort into that. Kudos to them. That was a pretty cool moment."
In the end, it was a pretty cool night.
Swayman continued his storybook emergence with a stellar 25-save effort, leading Boston to a 3-0 victory over the New York Islanders, while securing his first career shutout.
"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. Just super excited to get that accomplishment. I know I'll remember that one for a long time. Couldn't have been done without the defense I had in front of me, and the players up front as well. Super happy with that team effort."
The Alaska native has burst onto the scene over the last two weeks, helping to fill the void left by the absences of Tuukka Rask (upper-body injury) and Jaroslav Halak (COVID protocol). In five games with the big club, Swayman has posted a 4-1-0 record with a 1.78 goals against average and .938 save percentage.
"Very composed," said Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy. "He does have some of that Tuukka…that technically sound, composed guy that never looks out of control. Good to see. Good for him. A good kid who works hard. Both our young goaltenders [Swayman and Daniel Vladar] have really stepped up when we needed them. Good for those guys."
While Swayman only faced 25 shots on the night - including 10 in the first period - many of them were quality chances as the Islanders picked up five power play opportunities. But New York was held at bay thanks to strong penalty killing led by a number of stellar stops from the former fourth-round pick.
Among his most impressive stops: a right-shoulder save on a Michael Dal Colle's semi breakaway less than four minutes into the game, a denial of Anthony Beauvillier's shorthanded bid a few moments later, and an impressive combination shutdown of Kyle Palmeiri with his left toe at one side of the net and Beauvillier again with a lunging blocker save at the other in the closing minutes of the opening frame with the Isles on the power play.
"Really good early on. We didn't start on time like we did the other night. A little bit off," said Cassidy. "They had a couple of really good looks, got through the middle of the ice, ones where we missed some coverage. So, he had some really big stops early. Not a ton of quantity but real good quality saves.
"Then we found our game later in the first period…we came out in the second period and we were firing on all cylinders. Extended the lead with a nice play and obviously had more opportunities to do that. A solid third. But again, Swayman and the PK was excellent."
How much more opportunity Swayman gets the rest of the way is in question. With Rask returning on Thursday night without any ill effects and Halak likely to follow in the near future, Boston will have its dynamic goaltending duo back at its disposal.
And that is just fine with Swayman, who has relished the chance to learn from Rask.
"I get to watch one of the best goalies in the world every day at practice, that's Tuukka Rask," said Swayman. "I'm really fortunate to have a relationship with him now and learn from him every day. Just watching him and how he competes and sees pucks through screens. He's got some of the best edge work in the National Hockey League. It's fun to watch him. I've learned so much from him in the short time that I've been around him."
However things shake out down the stretch, Swayman will surely enjoy the ride.
"Shutouts are pretty hard to come by. It's a pretty special moment," said Swayman. "But again, I just try to focus on one game at a time. When you do get a shutout, it's one you can look back on and take a lot of good things from. Obviously, you did a lot of good things right. I want to make sure that I play my best every night. If I can learn from my past games, I will."
Video: NYI@BOS: Swayman boosts Bruins with 25-save effort
Back on the Board
David Pastrnak had gone seven straight games without a goal and had just two (both against Pittsburgh on April 3) in his last 13 contests entering Friday night. But the winger broke through with his 17th of the season off an elite dish from newcomer Mike Reilly with just 2.4 seconds left in the first period.
Reilly cycled into the corner and received a pass from Patrice Bergeron before zipping his own feed to Pastrnak, who roofed one just before the buzzer for a 1-0 Bruins lead.
"Reills is kind of tough to pronounce for me," Pastrnak joked. "I didn't even finish pronouncing his nickname, calling for the puck and it was already on my blade. Great pass by...Reills.
"I think I played pretty good the last couple games, was getting chances. Obviously, the puck wouldn't go in for me. But last couple games the chances was there. Frustrating sometimes when you don't score for many games but especially when they were coming in before.
"Just gonna stick with it. Show up to the rink every single morning, work your butt off and get ready for the next game. Try to not let the frustration get in your head."
Video: NYI@BOS: Pastrnak converts feed in closing seconds
Not Bad for New Guys
Overall, it was a strong night for Boston's new triumvirate. In addition to Reilly's helper, Taylor Hall scored for the second straight night when he redirected a David Krejci pass by Islanders goalie Ilya Sorokin (47 seconds into the second) and Curtis Lazar potted his first as a Bruin with an empty-netter (1:12 remaining).
"Obviously, that's [Bruins general manager Don Sweeney]," said Cassidy. "Obviously, identified areas of need…three really good fits for our hockey club. And knowing them for a week, three good people. They wanted to get here in a hurry. They hopped in the car, wanted to get here the next day. Wanted to be a part of it. A real nice deadline day for the Bruins and credit to Donny and his guys in the pro scouting department."
Video: NYI@BOS: Hall finishes give-and-go to double lead