Nick Goss

Why Bruins should go back to Jeremy Swayman in Game 4 vs. Leafs

Swayman has beaten the Leafs all five times he's played against them this season, including the playoffs.

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The Boston Bruins have used a goalie rotation for much of the last two regular seasons, and the strategy has yielded impressive results. But the Stanley Cup Playoffs are a different animal entirely.

When something works in the playoffs, you stick with it. Don't rock the boat. The "hot goalie" thing is real, and when it comes to beating the Toronto Maple Leafs, Jeremy Swayman is scorching hot.

If it wasn't clear already, it became painfully obvious in Game 3 of the Bruins' first-round series against the Leafs that Swayman should be starting in net until he doesn't deserve to anymore.

Swayman has made two starts in this series and he played great both times. He stopped 35 of the 36 shots sent his way in the series opener as the B's cruised to a 5-1 win. The University of Maine product was the team's best player in Wednesday night's Game 3 at Scotiabank Arena, which the Bruins won 4-2 to take a 2-1 series lead. He made 28 saves on 30 shots, including several clutch stops on the Leafs' five power plays.

Swayman made three key saves during a third-period Leafs power play while the Bruins were hanging on to the lead.

Swayman has owned the Leafs all year.

He went 3-0-0 with a .959 save percentage during the regular season. He's now 2-0-0 with a .955 save percentage in this series. The Leafs' expected goals scored number is 7.57 in the games Swayman has played in Round 1, per Natural Stat Trick, and yet they've only scored three times on him.

"He's been terrific," Bruins head coach Jim Montgomery told reporters after Game 3. "I just love his compete level and his quickness. When it went 3-2, right after that, there was a barrage of rebounds, and if I'm remembering correctly, (Tyler) Bertuzzi had two of the chances. But there were two more it seemed like, and he was just square to the puck, he's fighting and he finds it. It inspires the bench."

The only times Swayman has been beaten in this series were when he had little to no chance at making a save. The only goal he allowed in Game 1 came on a scramble in front of the net where he had to dive across the crease to stop the puck. The first goal in Game 2 was the result of a brilliant pass by Mitch Marner to give Matthew Knies a Grade A chance at the front of the net. The second Toronto goal was the result of the puck deflecting off a player in front of the net.

It's not like the Leafs aren't challenging Swayman, either. They have a 66-58 advantage in shots, a 73-51 lead in scoring chances and a 32-20 edge in high-danger chances in the games he has played in Round 1.

Toronto also has been on the power play eight times with Swayman in net and has scored zero goals. Special teams is arguably the main reason why the Bruins have a 2-1 series lead, and Swayman's performance on the penalty kill is helping drive that success.

The Bruins have alternated between Swayman and Linus Ullmark in every game dating back to Feb. 21. Even though the rotation has worked, it's not like Swayman is unfamiliar with making consecutive starts. He started back-to-back games on three separate occasions during the regular season, including a run of six consecutive starts in January when he went unbeaten in regulation (3-0-3). The rotation helps ensure both goalies remain fresh, but with an extra day off between Games 3 and 4, stamina shouldn't be a problem for Swayman.

“I think for me, personally, I don’t want rest. I just want to keep playing,” Swayman told reporters after Game 3. "No matter when I get the call, whether it's back-to-back or every other game, I want make sure my body is ready and I'm ready to perform at my best."

Swayman should be starting every game against the Leafs unless the results drastically change. Ullmark was really good in Game 2, but Swayman has been on a different level versus Toronto over the last two seasons.

The Bruins have an opportunity to take a commanding 3-1 series lead Saturday in Game 4. How do you not go back to your red-hot goalie in that scenario? Stay with what works. If the Bruins lose and Swayman doesn't play well, you can always go back to Ullmark at home in Game 5.

Swayman is playing the best hockey of his postseason career. He's absolutely locked in right now. You can bet the Leafs would rather face Ullmark and not Swayman in Game 4. Montgomery should ride the hot hand and give Swayman the opportunity to win back-to-back games.

"Any time I get a chance to play, I'm going to do whatever I can to help this team win, whether it's back-to-back or every other game," Swayman told reporters after Game 3. "I'm just really grateful every time I do get a chance, and that's all I worry about."

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