In the aftermath of his first NHL shutout Friday night, Jeremy Swayman was asked about the development of his game from his time at Maine to being a Bruins rookie phenom.
“I think the biggest thing is staying between my posts and keeping my feet in between my hips, not trying to get wide,” the 22-year-old said. “I do get wide at times, but I think the biggest thing is I’ve simplified a lot since my first games at Maine, and the experiences I had, obviously with Alfie Michaud teaching me along the way, the game gets faster every level you go up, and obviously this is the fastest you can get.
“So I’m making sure I’m trying to stay on my feet more and match the pace well. I think that’s the biggest thing that I can see the difference from my first game from Maine to now.”
If Michaud was watching the postgame press conference, he probably swelled with pride from the name drop. He was definitely watching Swayman make 25 saves against the New York Islanders because that’s what you do when you help a goalie climb from the college ranks to the NHL in one year.
From the start of Swayman’s NHL career a couple of weeks ago through this weekend, Michaud has witnessed a similar adjustment in the goalie’s game from the start to the present.
“The first game was pretty aggressive. I hadn’t seen that since his freshman year at Maine,” Michaud told Full Press Coverage by phone this week. “And then I felt like he made adjustments to his game, and I’m sure talking with [Bruins goalie coach] Bobby [Essensa], I’m sure they went and talked it out. It looked like he was much more controlled [after his first game], he picked his spots when to be very aggressive. And that’s going to be something, he’ll figure that out. You’ve got to play and be a part of it to figure out what you can and what you can’t do.”
Swayman figured it out at Maine by being the goalie the Black Bears leaned on for three seasons. He played in 100 games, compiling a .928 save percentage. He had a .933 save percentage in nine games as a first-year pro at Providence of the AHL this season before injuries forced the Bruins to summon him.
Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy mentioned Saturday that Swayman’s giving the Bruins a chance to win games right now, but it remains to be how tough games are “going to affect him going forward.” Every goalie runs into bumps in the road, and Cassidy singled out Philadelphia’s Carter Hart and his 2020-21 season that’s been on and off the rails as a recent example.
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Michaud says Swayman has characteristics that’ll help him stay on the right path even when he’s knocked off it a little bit.
“A big thing for him is to control what he can control and to trust himself and his ability. He’s done all those things and that’s a testament to the kid,” Michaud said. “He’s in such good hands with that organization with Mike Dunham and Bob Essensa. You talk about two guys that just get people, first off. And they’re so good at working with that and I’ve had the fortune to get to know them through this process because of Sway. He’s got two guys that’re perfect for him, how he is and how they mesh. He’s in a really, really good situation.”
Michaud, a veteran of more than 400 pro games, including two with the Vancouver Canucks, defers all the credit for Swayman’s success to the player. But Swayman’s comments Friday show he’s always thinking of his mentor, who he continues to keep in touch with regularly, and he seems more than willing to share some credit for his accomplishments with him.
“We always say, these kids do it all. We’re just here to hopefully guide and mentor and with me being an ex-pro, you share those experiences and you hope he takes them,” Michaud said. “But those kids got to play and they got to do everything, they’re putting in the time, the work.
“I always said it’s a proud uncle moment. I’ll never say I’m his papa because that’s Kenny Sway’s job, but I’m a proud uncle, that’s for sure.”