PHILADELPHIA — Asking a 24-year-old to step into the shadow cast by a goalie that had been the rock of a franchise for so long would be too much.
Expecting him to do it after just 10 regular-season games would have been as well.
All Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy wanted from young goaltender Jeremy Swayman in the offseason was for him to get better.
“He sure was good last year, right, so hopefully he can carry over, it wasn’t dumb luck last year,” Cassidy said. “So I’m not surprised. We were hoping he’d look similar if not better.”
What Cassidy knew for sure about Swayman was that the attitude he brings to the ice every day could set him up for success.
“I think he’s got a lot of humility, which is nice for young guy who’s had success,” Cassidy said. “Listen, I love his outlook. He comes to the rink ready to practice. He’s in a good mood every day. He appreciates where he is. He’s not knocking on our goalie coach’s door saying, ‘Hey, I should be the starter because I had a good couple of months last year.’ He’s very respectful of the process, but also very competitive in knowing that, ‘Hey, this net could be mine.’ ”
Swayman still has the wide-eyed outlook that endeared him to fans last year as he emerged as a fresh face during the Bruins’ playoff push. His approach isn’t just day to day, it’s moment to moment because each one’s still new and each one still matters.
“I’m happy to be here,” Swayman said. “Not too many people get to put on the spoked B, and be able to do that every day with some of the best talent in the world is pretty incredible. So I really do cherish every moment that I get to do that. You know it’s just special.
“The way I kind of live my life is just moment to moment. That’s all you can control. Control what you can control and enjoy it.
Throughout the preseason he’s had the focus of a player ready to embrace the larger role that awaits him with Tuukka Rask and Jaroslav Halak gone. He continued his razor sharp exhibition run Monday night against the Flyers, coming up with 33 saves in the Bruins’ 2-1 overtime loss.
In three preseason games, Swayman has 68 saves on 71 shots.
“I’m very impressed,” said Chris Wagner. “I don’t think last year was a fluke.”
Jack Studnicka got the Bruins on the board first, diving across traffic in front of the net to punch in Jakub Lauko’s shot off the post at the 13:25 mark in the second period.
The Flyers outshot the Bruins, 36-25, but Swayman was cool under pressure.
Later in the second period, when Connor Clifton lost the puck by the blue line and gave James van Riemsdyk a breakaway, Swayman had no trouble shutting down van Riemsdyk’s backhand attempt.
With Nick Wolff in the box for hooking van Riemsdyk, however, the Flyers cracked Swayman’s armor on the power play. Sean Couturier sneaked a one-hander by Swayman before time expired to tie the score going into the third.
When play turned to 3-on-3 in overtime, Swayman found himself facing an odd-man rush and got beat by Ivan Provorov to end it.
He grinned at having so much action come his way with the start of the season approaching.
“It was awesome to get some shots, for sure,” Swayman said. “I thought our defense was great. We take pride in our defensive zone. I thought the guys cleared out rebounds, had good structure and I was happy with what I saw from the team.”
Swayman solidified himself on the ice and established himself among the veterans in the locker room as well.
“I think he has a lot of confidence, which helps,” Wagner said. “His play backs it up. Generally if you play well in big games like he did last year — and in the preseason, you know, he’s got peppered a couple times and he stood in there — I think he gains the respect of everybody in the room and he builds off that.”
Cassidy acknowledged the competition between Swayman and Linus Ullmark, who’s still getting adjusted after signing a four-year deal in July. But if the opening night nod goes Swayman’s way, he’ll be grateful for the moment.
“I just wanted to build on the positives from last year,” Swayman said. “I think that’s the best thing about gaining experience in hockey. You learn a lot of new things every year, you mature a lot more, especially being around older guys now, being a young guy, being accepted by those guys learning what the best of the best do every day.
“They take pride in their leadership, they don’t care if you’re a rookie or veteran guy, they expect high expectations from each other and everyone needs to pull the rope. Even if you’re a first year guy or 10-year guy, it doesn’t matter, everyone has the same respect level for you. They treat you with respect, they treat you with expectation and I think that’s a great environment to be successful.”
Julian Benbow can be reached at email@example.com.