By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) -- On Tuesday night, Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy confirmed what most people had assumed for several weeks: Jeremy Swayman will be on Boston's playoff roster.
"Yeah he will be," Cassidy said when asked if Swayman will be the team's backup when the playoffs begin this weekend. "I think he's earned that."
He certainly has. A relative unknown to most Bruins fans as recently as February, Swayman was pressed into NHL duty in March, when both Tuukka Rask (back injury) and Jaroslav Halak (COVID-19) were out of the lineup. The 22-year-old Swayman made the most of his opportunity, quickly climbing past Dan Vladar on the organizational depth chart and carving out his own role on the NHL roster.
With a strong performance in Tuesday's regular-season finale (albeit with a disappointing final few seconds), Swayman finished his first NHL season with a 7-3-0 record, .945 save percentage, and 1.50 goals-against average. That came after he went 8-1-0 with a .933 save percentage and 1.89 for AHL Providence this year, his first in pro hockey after playing for the University of Maine from 2017-20.
In an admittedly small sample size, Swayman had the best save percentage and GAA in the entire NHL -- and by wide margins -- among goaltenders with at least 10 games played. He also had the best even-strength save percentage (.953). Among that same group of goaltenders, he also had the best high danger save percentage (.891) in the league, per Natural Stat Trick.
Obviously, having played just 10 games, the numbers aren't a fair comparison. Nobody would suggest Swayman is the best goaltender in the National Hockey League. But that performance while starting 18 percent of Boston's games this season indicate that the team has indeed found something very promising in Swayman.
While Swayman earned his spot, it means that Cassidy had to tell the veteran Halak that he's the third option for the postseason. Halak posted a .905 save percentage and 2.53 GAA in his 19 games (17 starts) this season.
"Obviously a tough call with Jaro, with his experience. He's just played more down the stretch here, Swayman. Some of that was out of circumstance -- Tuukka got hurt, Jaro went into COVID [protocols], so there's a quarantine, and for goalies it's a little tougher to get thrown back in there. So a little time to get back up to speed. I thought Swayman grabbed the ball and ran with it."
Cassidy added that the decision could change as the playoffs go along. But for the upcoming first round against Washington at least, it'll be Rask and Swayman for Boston.
"Right now," Cassidy said, "I think Swayman's done everything we've asked."
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