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Kevin Paul Dupont | On Hockey

Jeremy Swayman is tightening his grip on the Bruins’ net, and doesn’t look as if he’s letting go

Jeremy Swayman is 4-0-1 with a .964 save percentage in his last five games.Rich Gagnon/Getty

SAN JOSE, Calif. — The Bruins left here Saturday night with another win, their fourth in a row, inching them a baby step ahead of the Capitals in the East’s wild-card mixer.

The 3-1 edging of the Sharks, paced by a pair of Brad Marchand goals, also added to the coaching staff’s increasing conviction that rookie goalie Jeremy Swayman, 23, has taken the lead in the tug-o-war to be the Black and Gold’s No. 1 goalie.

A done deal, no. But it’s getting there and fast, faster than the agile Swayman’s mesmerizing post-to-post slides in his crease. What was from the start of the season billed as a prudent, healthy competition between Swayman and Linus Ullmark — with an interesting midseason Tuukka Rask interlude — now looks like the Bruins are ready go all the way with Sway.

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If so, Swayman, less than a calendar year removed from his NHL debut, will become the first true rookie to be handed the club’s netminding duties in almost 20 years, dating to Andrew Raycroft’s rookie-of-the-year campaign in 2003-04, the long ago pre-salary-cap days when the Razor was Boston’s 23-year-old goaltending wunderkind.

Jeremy Swayman remains unbeaten since Tuukka Rask abruptly retired.John Tlumacki/Globe Staff

Swayman, now 4-0-1 with a .964 save percentage in the post-Rask era, was forced to make only 15 stops Saturday against the Sharks, for the most part a quiet night for him to improve to 12-7-3.

However, he was sensational with the game on the line late in the third period, gloving a Tomas Hertl low-slot tester with 3:09 to go that kept the score at 2-1.

“Swaytastic!” bellowed Judd Sirott in the 98.5 broadcast booth.

For the record, it also was the final shot of the night for the Sharks. Just as there are backbreaking goals, there are also timely, morale-busting, two-fingers-in-the-eyes saves.

“It’s almost like the best [goalies] step up when your team has a lull,” noted Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy following the win, after earlier in the day saying he felt Swayman had moved ahead in the race for the net. “It’s like, ‘OK, this is my time now, they need me, I’ve got to be there.’ I think you see that with Sway.”

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It’s the timely saves that matter most. For anyone old enough to remember Gerry Cheevers in the Boston net, the “Cheese” made his Hall of Fame case around big, meaningful saves. If the Bruins had a 5-1 lead, sure, he might fan on the shots that made it 5-2, 5-3. But in a 2-1 nailbiter, Cheevers was money, like he printed it in the back room next to the cooler kept chilled by trainers Dan Canney and Frosty Forristall.

“Obviously, an all-world save at the end there,” said Cassidy, referring to the one-handed thievery on Hertl. “Timing was perfect.”

Jeremy Swayman has been in the spotlight as of late for the Bruins.Jim Davis/Globe Staff

Cassidy did not name his starter for Monday night in Los Angeles, stop No. 3 on the six-game All-America tour. He did say that he’ll divvy up the back-to-back starts, LA and Anaheim, between Swayman and Ullmark, who is 3-3-1 in his last seven starts. Given that Sunday was a day off, it’s likely that Swayman will go against the Kings, because Cassidy tends to follow off-days with the guy who started the previous game.

Just two springs ago, Swayman was still at the University of Maine, trying to decide whether to remain a Black Bear or turn pro with the Bruins, the club that made him the 111th pick in the 2017 draft. He ultimately signed on Don Sweeney’s dotted line, and now here he is, taking numbers and kicking vulcanized rubber.

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“That’s what they’ve asked from me and Linus from the start — they want both of us to compete for the No. 1 job,” Swayman said. “It’s only going to help the team. And that’s all I want to do.”

Ullmark, signed to a four-year, $20 million free agent deal last summer, has been steady, his game also sharper in the wake of Rask retiring. Slightly bigger than Swayman, the Swede has proven a reliable stopper, and Thursday night in Seattle recorded his 17th win, equaling his career high.

Swayman is faster, more agile, unlike any goalie the Bruins have had, and even more of a rarity in that he arrived on Causeway Street as a product of the draft. They’ve had a history of trading away some of their best goalie draftees, including Ken Dryden in the ‘60s and Bill Ranford in the ‘80s.

Now it looks like they have a keeper in their keeper: Swayman.

Jeremy Swayman, left, and Linus Ullmark engage in their traditional postgame victory celebration after a recent win.Jim Davis/Globe Staff

“He’s getting better and better,” said Cassidy, who watched how one of his old coaches, Darryl Sutter, benefited in LA with ex-UMass netminder Jonathan Quick. “Again, there’s some puck play we have to talk to him about, so we can increase our efficiency on the breakouts … a challenging area for us. We have to clean it up. Good forechecking teams will take advantage of you. But in terms of stopping the puck, he looked square all night.

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“There’s a lot of good in his game.”

Good. Getting better. And though it still may be early to declare that Swayman truly is the goods, the guy to take the job and run, it sure is beginning to look like Sway is the way.


Kevin Paul Dupont can be reached at kevin.dupont@globe.com.