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Jeremy Swayman opens up on relationship with Linus Ullmark: "There's no one I'll ever meet like him again"

Jeremy Swayman opens up on relationship with Linus Ullmark
Jeremy Swayman opens up on relationship with Linus Ullmark 02:06

BOSTON -- Professional sports, as we know them, are predicated on competition. There's the obvious competition between two teams, but there's also competition within locker rooms, as very few professional athletes are blessed with true job security.

That's at least partly why it's been so fascinating to observe the blossoming and flourishing friendship between Bruins goaltenders Jeremy Swayman and Linus Ullmark. The paradigm of competition has changed ever so slightly with each postgame embrace.

"Yeah, I mean, I'm glad you noticed it," Swayman told a reporter Thursday night, "because it's so genuine, man."

That friendship has been impossible to miss after Bruins games this season, as Ullmark and Swayman have made a show out of their celebratory hugs after victories. And this year, there have been a whole lot of victories.

Linus Ullmark and Jeremy Swayman
Linus Ullmark and Jeremy Swayman China Wong/NHLI via Getty Images

In the summer of 2021, Swayman was coming off a tremendous debut in the league, having posted a .945 save percentage and a 1.50 goals-against average in his first 10 NHL games. His future was promising. Yet the organization showed a lack of confidence in the young netminder by signing Ullmark on day one of free agency to a four-year, $20 million deal with a full no-movement clause for two years. Combine that with the stated plans to bring Tuukka Rask back following his surgery, and Swayman was being pushed farther and farther away from the Boston crease.

Yet rather than requesting a trade or alienating himself in the locker room, Swayman just continued to work. He ended up in a straight split of the workload with Ullmark, and Rask's comeback fizzled quickly, with the veteran ultimately opting to retire. Ullmark was the team's starter when the postseason began, but Swayman took over in Game 3 and kept the job through Boston's seven-game loss to Carolina.

This year, Swayman got off to a rough start, while Ullmark has been the best goalie in the NHL from wire to wire. Swayman, though ... just kept working, and now he has been arguably the best goalie in the league since the beginning of January.

Through it all, the two goaltenders have thrived while giving each other and having each other's full support.

"To see it translate on the ice so well for both of us is something really special, and we're finding the formula of how to do that every night," Swayman said.

Swayman shared that he's had strong relationships with his fellow goalies dating back to his days at the University of Maine, naming Matt Thiessen and Stephen Mundinger as the friends who really helped teach him about balancing camaraderie with friendship. While those relationships were strong, Swayman said he's got something very different right now with Ullmark.

"There's nothing compared to Linus, though. He's separated himself. There's no one I'll ever meet like him again," Swayman said. "So I'm just enjoying the ride, and hopefully it's gonna continue for a long time."

Linus Ullmark, Jeremy Swayman
Linus Ullmark, Jeremy Swayman Derek Cain / Getty Images

The friendship has also grown to include the families of both netminders.

"I was at his house [Wednesday]. I brought my dad and uncle over, we had a little fika," Swayman said, nonchalantly tossing around a Swedish term for coffee with friends. "And we were just catching up. It was just so cool. My dad asks how he's doing every time I talk to him. You know, it's like a second son. So it's such a special relationship."

Perhaps most surprisingly of all, the tandem has functioned so well that they've inspired some people to believe that a split of the workload in some capacity might actually be possible once the playoffs begin. Traditionally, a team has needed a clear-cut, No. 1 goalie backstopping a Stanley Cup run. But the way this duo has worked all year is working to change some minds.

After Swayman notched the victory on Thursday, he improved to 19-6-4 on the year, with a .921 save percentage and 2.19 GAA. Since Jan. 1, he has a .937 save percentage and 1.82 GAA, both the second-best marks in the entire NHL in that span. He's also recorded four shutouts in those 16 starts.

Ullmark, meanwhile, has remained steady for Boston, recording a .935 save percentage and a 2.00 GAA over that same span, ranking just behind Swayman in both categories. On the year, Ullmark is a ridiculous 35-5-1 with a .937 save percentage and a 1.95 GAA, and he's the runaway favorite to win his first Vezina Trophy.

Together, Swayman and Ullmark (with one game from Keith Kincaid) have combined for a .930 save percentage, a full 16 points better than the second-ranked Islanders. The duo will win the Jennings Trophy, but they're obviously set on winning a different piece of hardware in the coming months.

It would be unorthodox for Jim Montgomery to split time between his goaltenders in the playoffs, and it would be risky. But if ever there was a duo that could pull it off without ego, jealousy, or resentment getting in the way, it would seemingly be Ullmark and Swayman.

There is, however, one potential risk factor to the on-ice play. And it comes in the form of sweet baked goods.

"His wife makes the best cinnamon buns you'll ever try in your life," Swayman said of Ullmark's wife, Moa Wikman. "Yeah, I had like six yesterday. They're unbelievable."

Provided Swayman can maintain his impulse control around the cinnamon buns, the relationship between the pipes in Boston appears to be built to thrive for the foreseeable future.

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