Back on March 6, 2020 — Jeremy Swayman played the final game of his collegiate career at the University of Maine — a 48-save shutout against Providence College.
Now, exactly 13 months later, the B's top netminder prospect is set to battle the likes of Claude Giroux, Sean Couturier and the Philadelphia Flyers on Tuesday night.
With Tuukka Rask sidelined with an upper-body injury and Jaroslav Halak still in COVID-19 protocols, the Bruins' goaltending duo of the future will be called upon once again — with Swayman set to make his NHL debut in the second leg of the B's back-to-back slate with Philly down at the Wells Fargo Center.
It's far from an ideal situation for all parties involved, especially given that Swayman has only logged nine games of pro hockey during his young career. But with Dan Vladar earning his reps on Monday night at TD Garden and no return in sight yet for Rask/Halak, such is the hand that the Bruins are dealt when it comes to throwing Swayman headfirst into a pivotal game.
"Goalie (coach) Bob (Essensa) will talk to him," Bruce Cassidy said of Swayman. "He'll get his pointers from the shooter's perspective in Philly. He was here (Monday) night, obviously probably helps him to see a little bit of their style of play. You're going to get your first game sooner or later, so here we are in the middle of a busy week.
"And he knows he might go right back in there if Tuukka and Jaro aren't ready. I don't think he's thinking too far ahead about that, I think he's thinking about making his first save and the next save after that. I think every kid's been dreaming about this opportunity, he's getting his. He played well in Providence, had a condensed schedule there as well. He's gotten some good reps, he's got some game situations. Been up here for practice. Hopefully he's up to the task."
All things considered, Swayman has more than impressed during his brief time so far with the Providence (Marlborough?) Bruins — going 8-0-1 in his nine appearances with a minuscule 1.89 goals-against average and a .933 save percentage.
It's been an impressive follow-up to a junior campaign up in Orono in which the 22-year-old goalie was absolutely unconscious between the pipes for the Black Bears — winning the Mike Richter Award as the NCAA's top netminder and earning a finalist nod for the Hobey Baker Award after leading all Hockey East goalies with an absurd .939 save percentage.
Still, as daunting as the jump from the college game to AHL competition is, it's another beast entirely to take the next giant leap up to the NHL level.
As such, it will be on the skaters in front of Swayman to do their part to keep a salvo of pucks clear from him, especially in Grade-A areas of the ice.
"He's had a really good resume in college obviously and has done a really good job in Providence," Cassidy said of Swayman. "I think we're the type of team that plays with good layers in front of our goaltender, so we're not typically asking our goalie to go out and win us games, it's not a run and done for us. Do your job.
"Hopefully if there are some good chances that we clear the second one, that's how we're structured defensively. Understand that it is his first start so hopefully the guys around him are talking to him and are a little more dialed in with puck play details, talking, all those little things that a goalie's not used to with players."