The Boston Bruins will be fighting to save their season Thursday night when they host the Carolina Hurricanes in Game 6 at TD Garden, and the goalie who gives them the best chance to force a Game 7 is Jeremy Swayman.
The rookie netminder got the Bruins back in the series with wins in Game 3 and Game 4 in Boston this past weekend. He made 49 saves on 53 shots (.924 save percentage) over those two victories. Swayman gave the Bruins much-needed improvement in net after veteran Linus Ullmark allowed eight goals in two losses on the road to begin the series.
Game 5 at PNC Arena was a step back for Swayman. He allowed four goals on 37 shots as the Bruins were pushed to the brink of elimination with a 5-1 loss Tuesday night.
How would Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy assess Swayman's latest performance?
“Not as clean as he has been. I thought he had some tough puck luck,” Cassidy said. “I think the second goal goes off Charlie (Coyle). It's a tough screen. The first one, we talk about timely saves, they got a few early on. We need that one.”
Cassidy later added: "(Swayman) gave us a chance after that. There was a stretch there we weren’t very good in front of him. Mismanaged some pucks. He made some timely saves to give us a chance to stay in it. So I’m certainly not putting this on Jeremy. We need to finish a little better when we get our opportunities early. That's an issue for us."
Swayman didn't play great in Game 5, but he definitely wasn't one of the top three reasons why the Bruins lost. For starters, the Bruins scored only one goal, and it came in the third period with the 'Canes leading 4-0. The B's also didn't make it easy for Swayman by giving up 38 shots, 40 scoring chances and 19 high-danger chances, per Natural Stat Trick.
The first Carolina goal he absolutely should have saved, though. Swayman was able to get a piece of the puck on Jaccob Slavin's shot from the left faceoff circle, but it still got through and barely trickled over the goal line.
The second Hurricanes goal came on the power play. Tony DeAngelo's shot from the point found its way through three Bruins players and past Swayman off a deflection. There's no way Swayman could've seen the puck with that much traffic in front of him.
The Hurricanes were buzzing early in the second period and easily could've put the game away sooner. Swayman kept the Bruins within striking distance, but they couldn't trim the deficit until it was too late.
Cassidy told reporters after Game 5 that he hasn't decided on which goalie will be in net for Game 6.
“We’ll regroup and decide that tomorrow or Thursday,” Cassidy said.
Swayman deserves to start the next game. He responded well in a high-pressure Game 3 situation, which was essentially a must-win matchup for Boston. When the Bruins have defended well and dominated on the penalty kill in this series, it's been with Swayman in net.
Swayman gives the Bruins the best odds to extend their season to a Game 7 on Saturday, but it has to be a team effort. The Bruins need to give him some more help.
One way to do that would be scoring first and not falling behind by two or more goals. The Hurricanes have opened the scoring in every game this series and own a 45-1-0 record (3-0-0 in Round 1) whenever they've led by two-plus goals.