The Boston Bruins have had a wealth of riches in net in recent years. Going from Tim Thomas to Tuukka Rask was a transition that just about every other team in the NHL would be envious of. That doesn’t even mention the fact that the team would then go from Rask to Jeremy Swayman who, 32 games into his NHL career, has looked like the real deal.
After breaking out in his first 10 games with the Bruins last season with a 7-3-0 record, a 1.50 goals-against average, .945 save percentage and 10.0 goals-saved above average, Swayman would dominate again this season. In 22 games, Swayman has gone 11-7-3 with a 2.09 goals-against average and .925 save percentage with a 9.7 GSAA.
It isn’t just the easy saves that Swayman is making either as he’s currently in 10th place in the NHL with an impressive .842 high-danger save percentage according to Natural Stat Trick. His most recent outing came against one of the NHL’s best and most fearsome offenses in the Colorado Avalanche. Swayman would look like a seasoned veteran in net against them, making 28 saves on 29 shots with the only goal allowed in the game coming on the power play. The Bruins would come away from this game with a 5-1 win.
Simply put, Swayman has looked the part and has earned a shot at getting the majority of starts for the Bruins for the rest of the season and postseason.
This might seem crazy to some as the team just committed a large sum of money and years to Linus Ullmark to effectively share the net with Swayman until Tuukka Rask was healthy enough to return to action. Ultimately, Rask’s comeback would be short-lived and he would retire from the NHL after just four starts this season; this would open the door for Swayman to return and look like a star in the process.
All the while, Ullmark would continuously show that he has the potential to be very good in the NHL, though the consistency still left a lot to be desired from a game-to-game perspective.
Ullmark Has Been Solid Though Unspectacular With Bruins
In his first season with the Bruins, Ullmark has gone 17-8-1 with a 2.76 goals-against average and .909 save percentage with a 0.3 GSAA. Additionally, Ullmark’s high-danger save percentage is only a .812 which ranks him 33rd in the NHL – just outside of starter range.
Ullmark can absolutely be a solid 1B to Swayman’s 1A, but that should come with Swayman starting roughly 70% of the team’s games and Ullmark starting the remaining 30% barring any unforeseen injuries. Once the playoffs hit, it would also be silly to play Ullmark over Swayman given their current levels of play being so drastically different due simply to the fact that he’s more experienced and has a bigger contract.
If the Bruins are looking to win games and develop their 23-year-old netminder in the process, then they shouldn’t over-complicate things. Swayman needs to be considered the starter moving forward with Ullmark being there to help keep Swayman fresh once the playoffs roll around. The good news is that nothing needs to be set in stone and should Swayman start to falter, Ullmark is a solid safety net who could step in and let Swayman find his groove again.
It’s important to find the right balance, here, though. One bad start shouldn’t immediately dictate the future of Swayman’s playing time as that would only serve to hurt his confidence rather than help him grow.
The Bruins got lucky to be dealt such a good hand with Swayman and the timing couldn’t have worked out better for the team. With Rask retiring and stepping out of the way sooner than the team may have expected, Swayman’s development being so advanced couldn’t have lined up better. He isn’t stuck behind arguably the best goalie in the history of the franchise and he also wasn’t forced into this spot way too early before he was ready for the spotlight.
The universe works in funny ways sometimes. For Swayman and the Bruins, taking advantage of the situation at hand would benefit all parties involved. The Bruins may be more than one trade deadline move away from contending in the 2022 Postseason, but that doesn’t mean they should just throw in the towel and forget about this season entirely.
Crazier things have happened and though the Bruins may not be quite as good as they’ve been in recent years, they can still make noise in the playoffs with the addition of a few players and Swayman backstopping the team to victories.
Brandon Share-Cohen has covered the NHL and various professional sports for seven years. Working with The Hockey Writers, Brandon works extensively on covering the Boston Bruins in addition to his role as the News Team Lead.