Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy was in search of a “timely save” after his team went down 2-0 in their first-round series against the Hurricanes.
He got that in Game 3.
After Linus Ullmark allowed eight goals in the first two games of the series (four in each game), Cassidy called on 23-year-old Jeremy Swayman to make his first career playoff start in Game 3. The young netminder made 25 saves on 27 Hurricanes shots, helping the Bruins get a 4-2 win on Friday. The mindset for Swayman entering Game 3 was, in his words, simple.
“Do everything you can to win,” Swayman said. “Simple.”
Swayman’s first playoff start didn’t start off in the greatest fashion for the Bruins though. Boston didn’t score on two power-play opportunities early in the first period and in between those chances, Swayman gave up a goal to Vincent Trocheck, who scored off a rebound.
The Bruins appeared to be in more trouble after Erik Haula committed a tripping penalty, sending the Hurricanes to the power play. Boston’s defense held strong for the first minute of the power play though, and an unforced error by Carolina turned into a highlight-reel goal for the Bruins.
Swayman sensed the tide change when Jake DeBrusk made the impressive pass to Charlie Coyle for the shorthanded goal to tie the game up.
“That’s awesome. It was a great goal by [DeBrusk] and Charlie,” Swayman said. “It’s hustle. It’s attention to detail and knowing when to go when there’s a big opportunity. Obviously, getting the crowd into it was a big part. They were behind us the whole night and it was a great atmosphere to play in.”
The Bruins gained their first lead of the series just over five minutes into the second period when Brad Marchand finally got on the board. Now, Swayman was forced to protect the lead.
The Hurricanes gave Swayman a really tough test in the ensuing minutes. Carolina went on the power play a few minutes after Marchand’s goal, but Swayman stopped both shots the Hurricanes had on that opportunity.
Roughly 30 seconds later, the Hurricanes were on the attack again. Jordan Matinook’s snapshot was saved by Swayman, but the Bruins weren’t able to control the rebound. Brett Pesce had a wrist shot from the opposite faceoff circle, which was saved by Swayman though the puck remained loose. Jesper Fast got the puck in the slot and tried a wrist shot from there. Swayman stopped that again, but the puck went behind the net. Jordan Staal tried two wraparound attempts. Neither got by Swayman, and the Bruins finally got the puck cleared moments later.
Swayman complimented the men in front of him for keeping the Hurricanes off the board.
“That’s a great team effort. It was important,” Swayman said. “They came in and rushed. That’s their game. They get in front of the net and clean up rebounds. So, I wanted to make sure I could do whatever I can, sealing the ice well and (sealing) the upper part of the net well. I wanted to do whatever I can to stop rebounds and end the play.”
Jacob Slavin eventually beat Swayman with a shot from the blue line. However, it came after power-play goals from David Pastrnak and Taylor Hall, giving Swayman plenty of cushion in the third period.
In addition to the four goal scorers, Swayman received help from one defenseman in particular. Derek Forbort recorded a game-high nine blocks, six more than any other player. He also nearly played seven minutes on the penalty kill (6:46). Forbort’s play certainly helped Swayman, who made sure to give the defenseman his due.
“I love that guy. He’s the man,” Swayman said of Forbort. “He’s been doing that all year for us, too. Nothing new from him. He does everything for the team, for the crest. And it shows. Guys play hard for him and he does the same for us. It’s an awesome person to have in front of me.”
As Swayman was impressed by Forbort’s performance, Cassidy was impressed by Swayman’s outing. However, he wasn’t surprised by how well the first-time playoff starter kept his composure.
“Yeah, that’s his demeanor. I don’t think that will change,” Cassidy said. “The farther we go along, some of that will get tested. Obviously, for a young guy, these are the most important games he’s probably ever played. So, we’ll see. We knew that about him.
“Right up until the end we weren’t sure who was going to be our Game 1 starter. We just felt Ullmark had the better finish, so that’s the way we went. He worked on his game in between. You never know if you’re going to get a shot, if the other guy stays hot, and whatnot. He got his opportunity and was ready for it. I think it says what it always has. He’s consistent and a good pro for a young guy. He’s a really good pro. He’ll get tested again on Sunday but he passed his first one.”
Swayman has just a little bit more than 36 hours to get ready for his second playoff start when Game 4 takes place on Sunday at 12:30 p.m. But he couldn’t help but remark on how good his first playoff career start went.
“Yeah, that was special,” Swayman said of the playoff atmosphere. “The only other time [that could compare was when I made my first start] last year, when [post-]COVID allowed fans to come in. So, that was obviously electric. It’s a great experience every time you walk into a full building here. And the playoffs (are) a whole other level. So, it’s great to get the win in front of our hometown tonight.”
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