Nick Goss

Why Bruins must start Jeremy Swayman for rest of series vs. Leafs

Moving away from Swayman would be a colossal mistake at this point.

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BOSTON -- The list of Bruins players who gave a strong performance in Tuesday night's Game 5 against the Toronto Maple Leafs is a very short one.

In fact, Jeremy Swayman might be the only name on it.

The Bruins got off to a really slow start with a horrendous opening period that they were lucky to come out of tied at one goal apiece. They did start to find their footing a bit in the second and third periods, but they struggled to defend and couldn't capitalize on any of their scoring chances outside of one fluky play that resulted in Trent Frederic's first-period goal.

The Leafs played with a desperation that the Bruins were unable to match, and the result was a 2-1 overtime victory for Toronto that extends this first-round series to a Game 6 at Scotiabank Arena on Thursday night.

The only reason why the Bruins made it to overtime was the excellent play of Swayman, who made his third consecutive start and fourth overall in this series.

Swayman stopped 31 of the 33 shots the Leafs sent his way. His best save came in the second period when he quickly moved from right to left to thwart Leafs defenseman Morgan Rielly on a Toronto power play.

The Bruins began the playoffs with a goalie rotation. They used it for three games. It's time to ditch it, at least for now. Swayman should be the starter for the rest of the series. The matter shouldn't even be debated at this point.

Maybe the Bruins could use Linus Ullmark against the Panthers in the second -- assuming Boston makes it that far -- given his strong stats versus Florida this season. But there's no doubt that Swayman is unequivocally the best choice for this specific opponent in Round 1.

The counterargument to starting Swayman a fourth consecutive game is to look at last year and how not switching goalies sooner ended up costing the Bruins in their shocking first-round defeat to the Panthers. There are some key differences between that situation and this one, though.

For starters, Ullmark clearly wasn't 100 percent healthy in Round 1 last season. It was obvious and the Bruins still stuck with him through six games before turning to Swayman for Game 7. Ullmark also played poorly in Games 2, 5 and 6. Swayman looks great physically in this series, and he's also playing fantastic.

His .956 save percentage ranks No. 1 among all goalies who have started multiple games in the 2024 playoffs. He also ranks No. 1 with a 1.49 GAA and 6.26 goals saved above expected. His .844 high-danger save percentage ranks fourth-best. He's 7-0-1 versus the Leafs over the last two seasons, and he hasn't given up more than two goals in any of those eight starts.

Why on earth would you take out a goalie playing at that level?

If Ullmark starts Game 6 on Thursday, he will have gone 10 days between starts. In that situation, the Bruins would risk Ullmark being rusty after a long layoff. There's no reason why Swayman, who's just 25 years old and played in 44 of 82 games during the regular season, can't handle four straight starts over a nine-day span at the most important time of the year.

Montgomery made some questionable lineup changes going into Game 5, most notably removing John Beecher up front and re-inserting defenseman Matt Grzelcyk into the mix. One lineup decision he's consistently gotten right in Round 1 is sticking with Swayman.

Going away from Swayman now would be a colossal mistake given how well he's performing.

“We saw an opportunity that we missed, and we’re not going to let that happen again,” Swayman said. “The motivation is completely internal, and it’s contagious in this locker room. We’ll be a different team come Thursday.”

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