PHILADELPHIA — Had Jeremy Swayman chosen to play his senior year at the University of Maine, he likely would have turned pro just in the last couple of weeks and eager Bruins fans might be tracking his development with AHL Providence.
Instead, Swayman, he of the 2-0 record and a .947 save percentage, will make his third consecutive start for the Black and Gold varsity on Saturday against the Flyers at the Wells Fargo Center.
Swayman, 22, opted to fast-track a year ago upon leaving college, and right now the kid’s riding a bullet train.
“We want to put the best guy in there, the guy who gives us the best chance to win,” said coach Bruce Cassidy, following the team’s late-morning workout Friday. “Good for Sway. Obviously, we wouldn’t be running him back out there if he wasn’t performing like he is — we didn’t know, had a good idea because of his résumé, but you never know till you take that next step, and so far so good.”
Swayman, with his 4-2 win in Washington Thursday night, became the first Bruins rookie goaltender since Tuukka Rask in 2010 to win back-to-back games. The last Bruins draftee to do the same: Hannu Toivonen in 2005.
Swayman, who recorded a 4-2 win at Philadelphia in his NHL debut on Tuesday, is not penciled in for Sunday’s start at the Garden against the Capitals. According to Cassidy, fellow rookie Dan Vladar will be the guy, unless Rask, recovering from a back injury, is ready to reclaim his starter’s role.
Just don’t be surprised, if Rask isn’t 100 percent ready to go, if Cassidy were to change on the fly and go again with Swayman. If Swayman were to have an easy time in Saturday’s matinee, then he’d have two things on his side — youth and a hot hand — possibly to give Cassidy reason to stay with him.
Swayman made 31 stops against the Capitals and was particularly impressive when shutting down his net for the night after Washington scored a pair of power-play goals across a 19-second stretch in the second period.
The goals cut the Bruins’ lead to 3-2, but the rookie barely blinked, freezing the score there until the Bruins salted it away with Craig Smith’s power-play strike late in the third. Swayman, often seen smiling behind his mask, remained a steady, composed presence across the full 60 minutes.
“I think my mind-set doesn’t change as far as wanting to win and doing whatever I can to help my team win,” said the 6-foot-2-inch Swayman, acquired by the Bruins with the 111th pick in the 2017 draft. “The NHL, that’s everything, a big deal … and this team is a really good one to be a part of. I’m just enjoying every second I can, while I can.”
Each game, added Swayman, is a learning experience.
“A coach from Maine had a great quote, ‘You can’t buy experience at Target,’ ” Swayman said. “And that’s what I’m doing right now — I’m learning every day, whether it’s at practice or at the hotel, traveling, or in the game. So today a great memory is getting that win in a different building, and getting the 2 points that are super important. It’s hard not to enjoy that. I’m going to have a smile on my face the whole time.”
Brad Marchand popped in a shorthanded goal for the 3-0 lead early in Period 2 at Washington. It gave him 30 career shorties, moving him one ahead of the total potted by Martin St. Louis, the Hall of Famer from the University of Vermont.
Marchand, one of the game’s premier offensive forces at left wing the last four-plus seasons, has 47 points in 35 games. As of Friday morning, that ranked him this season’s most prolific left winger, and positioned him No. 6 in league scoring.
His offensive surge in recent seasons, particularly under Cassidy’s watch, has lifted Marchand’s profile to a point where his numbers compare very closely with St. Louis.
St. Louis rolled up 1,033 points in 1,134 career games, an output of .911 points per game. Marchand, with 693 points in 786 games, has delivered at a .882 clip.
St. Louis, who won the Cup with the Lightning in 2004, delivered at a .841 pace in his 107 playoff games. Marchand, with his name engraved on the Cup in 2011, stands at .785 with 95 points in 121 postseason appearances.
St. Louis, 5-8 and 180 pounds, was a left shot who played right wing and retired at age 39.
Marchand, 5-9 and 180 pounds, is a left shot at left wing. He’ll turn 33 on May 11.
“I think Marchy has more abrasiveness to his game and Marty, probably when he came into the game, you’d think of him as a little more high-end speed,” said Cassidy. “Marchy is very fast, very quick, very strong — so probably even now. But both smaller guys that were [are] very competitive, with second and third efforts to score goals, make plays.”
Both players, noted Cassidy, entered the league “a little under the radar” and “had to work for everything they got.”
St. Louis signed with Calgary as a free agent out of Vermont, then departed as a free agent in the spring of 2000 after only 69 NHL games. Beginning with his third year in Tampa, he strung together nine consecutive seasons of 25 goals or more.
“Good for them both,” said Cassidy. “I think it’s a good comparison.”
Rask worked out again on Friday and continues to make progress. He suffered a back strain March 7 against New Jersey, and his only action since has been a 20-minute stint against the Islanders on March 25 … As expected, Charlie McAvoy (injury undisclosed), back home, will not suit up vs. the Flyers. No telling if he’ll be ready to face the Capitals on Sunday … Jeremy Lauzon scored the opening goal, his first of the season, on Thursday, his one-timer from above the left circle bleeding by goalie Ilya Samsonov 33 seconds in. In 23 games, Lauzon has landed only 30 shots on net. “I try to work on putting more pucks on net,” he said, “and create some offense. It’s just something I work on a lot in the summer and now I’m trying to bring it into games.” … The Bruins, 2-0-1 in the last three games, piled up a whopping advantage in lead time (114:10 vs. 6:48) … David Pastrnak logged a very quiet 18:57 vs. the Capitals, firing only three times on net, even while logging 5:08 in power-play time. He’s riding these days with David Krejci as his center instead of Patrice Bergeron … Karson Kuhlman, with a modest 7:50 in Washington, was the only Boston forward not to put a shot on net. He was also the lone forward not to attempt a shot … Connor Clifton logged in with a plus-3 against the Capitals … A win in regulation on Saturday would give the Bruins, with two games in hand, an 8-point lead over the Flyers in the East Division, and Boston with 18 games to play.
Kevin Paul Dupont can be reached at email@example.com.