Jeremy Swayman is a man of the people, apparently.
While most netminders are often steel-faced during warmups as they brace themselves for another daunting night between the pipes, Swayman is cut from a different cloth — with the happy-go-lucky rookie's smile etched on his face from the moment he steps onto the ice to the aftermath of the final seconds draining from the Garden scoreboard.
Given the University of Maine product's outgoing personality, it shouldn't have come as much of a surprise that the 22-year-old netminder gravitated to a group of fans who pressed a "Swayman For President 2024" sign up against the glass ahead of Friday's game against the Islanders — granting an on-ice selfie for their creative efforts.
"That’s just the best,” Swayman said. “I know I was a fan once when I was a little kid and I’d be so excited when a player acknowledged me. So, I just wanted to give back, and I know how much it means to other kids. And that was a pretty good sign. They put a lot of effort into that. Kudos to them. That was a pretty cool moment.”
Swayman's 2024 odds are already looking promising. But if some Bruins fans had their way, Swayman would already be the frontrunner in a mid-terms 2022 campaign.
And, to be fair, the rookie has justified the hype and fueled such sentiment with his play in net this season. With his 25-save shutout performance against New York, Swayman has won four of his five outings with Boston — boasting an impressive .938 save percentage along the way.
After years spent withstanding salvos of shots up in Orono, Swayman is more than comfortable serving as the last line of defense against heavy shot volumes — but it's been his ability to stand tall against Grade-A looks, breakaways and odd-man rushes that has raised Swayman's stock across the league. In total, Swayman has posted an .893 save percentage on high-danger shots — tops among a pool of 74 goalies that have logged at least 200 minutes of ice time this season.
“Very composed," Bruce Cassidy said. "He does have some of that Tuukka (in him), right? That technically sound, composed guy that never looks out of control. It’s good to see. Good for him. He’s a good kid, he works hard. Both our young goaltenders have really stepped up when we needed them.”
Swayman's elevation from a highly-regarded collegiate goalie to premier prospect in the span of a year has served as one of the few pleasant surprises for Boston in a season where most developments have usually involved injuries, COVID stoppages and quarantines. Still, as easy as it might be to get tempted by the tales of Ken Dryden, Jordan Binnington and other rookies simply lighting the world on fire and leading their clubs to Stanley Cup titles — allow us to inject some reality back into the conversation here.
As we noted last week, as Tuukka Rask goes, so goes the Bruins in 2021 — while Jaroslav Halak (still on the COVID-19 Protocol list) will hopefully draw back in at some point before the regular season concludes. Of course, given Swayman's strong play, it's to be expected that the rookie will still earn some reps down the stretch — a justified move, given the product put forth on the ice.
"The plan would have been for him to go to Providence and split duties with (Dan) Vladar and compete with him and (Kyle) Keyser for playing time," Cassidy said of Swayman's initial projections in his first pro season. "But this this is what happens sometimes, right? One door closes on a Tuukka injury or Halak with COVID. And another one opens — an opportunity for someone else. And it was Vladar first and now Swayman. That's how some stories unfold and other ones are a little more deliberate and they take their time. So good for Jeremy. So far, so good ... I mean, this is five games where I don't believe he's allowed a bad goal. ... So great start. I mean, who knows where it'll go."
A great start? Of course. Is the future bright? No doubt. But don't expect the latest season of Succession to transition from Waystar Royco to the Bruins' goalie corps this season.
But what if he look ahead to 2022? Well, then things do get a bit more interesting.