If Saturday night’s season-opener offered a reminder of how good Jeremy Swayman was last year and how promising his future is, Wednesday night offered a different kind of reminder: That he’s a rookie, and rookies are going to have some off nights.
Swayman gave up five goals on 24 shots in the Bruins’ 6-3 loss to the Flyers, marking the first time in 12 NHL starts that he’s allowed more than three goals.
The loss was not all on him -- far from it, in fact. The Bruins looked sluggish as a team for long stretches of the game. Mike Reilly committed two turnovers that led to goals against, a bad pinch from Derek Forbort helped lead to another, and a foolish retaliation penalty from Charlie Coyle set up a Flyers power-play goal.
But Swayman definitely didn’t look like his usual self, either. The Flyers’ first goal, scored by Cam Atkinson on a two-on-one after the aforementioned Forbort pinch, squeaked under his arm and trickled over the line.
The third came when Swayman allowed a low-angle shot from James van Riemsdyk to ricochet off him and right into the slot, where Scott Laughton was waiting to bury it. On the fifth, Travis Konecny beat Swayman clean over the glove from the slot. It was a good shot, but one we’ve seen Swayman stop before.
One game isn’t cause for any real concern when it comes to Swayman; rather it’s just a reminder that he is in fact human.
“He’s not gonna be perfect every night,” Bruce Cassidy said after the game. “Clearly wasn’t tonight. Not his best. We needed some saves there. We broke down. That’s it. Didn’t give us when we needed them. Our breakdowns were bad in front of him.”
It’s also a reminder of why the Bruins signed Linus Ullmark in free agency. They wanted some stability alongside Swayman and didn’t want to have to rely on two young, relatively inexperienced goalies in Swayman and Dan Vladar.
Ullmark struggled this preseason and opened the door for Swayman to win the opening night start (and Game 2 start). But Ullmark will start Friday night in Buffalo, and many more games after that.
This was always going to be a tandem in goal. What the exact splits look like in terms of games and percentages and hot hands remains to be seen, but the notion that Ullmark was a waste of money because he’s already a “backup” and Swayman was ready to be a workhorse was premature.
The ideal scenario is that both goalies get and stay hot. But there will be times when one needs to pick up the other. Swayman got a chance to do the picking up and be the hot hand these first couple games because Ullmark had a tough preseason and needed more time to round into form.
Now Ullmark will get a shot to pick the team up after an all-around rough game Wednesday when he makes his first regular-season start as a Bruin on Friday against his former team, the surprisingly 3-0-0 Sabres. Who knows, we might even be talking about Ullmark as the hot hand at this time next week.
Regardless, Swayman should be fine. He’s extremely talented, as we’ve all seen going back to last spring. But he’s also a 22-year-old rookie with just 13 games of NHL experience who is going to have some nights like Wednesday, and that’s worth keeping in mind before we jump to any conclusions about the Bruins' goaltending situation.