Bruins notes: Swayman rescues B’s with crucial saves in win vs. Leafs originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston
BOSTON — The rivalry between the Bruins and Maple Leafs is one of the NHL’s best, and these teams rarely fail to provide plenty of entertainment when they play each other.
Thursday night’s showdown at TD Garden was no exception.
“That was a pretty good hockey game, huh?” Bruins head coach Jim Montgomery said as he sat down for his press conference after his team emerged with a 3-2 shootout win.
A lot of players stepped up for the Bruins, who were shorthanded due to injuries to Milan Lucic, Jakub Lauko, Matt Grzelcyk and Derek Forbort, in addition to Charlie McAvoy being suspended.
The most valuable player in Boston’s victory was Jeremy Swayman. He was outstanding. The 24-year-old goalie made 33 saves on 35 shots (.943 save percentage), including stops on all seven of the high-danger shots he faced, per Natural Stat Trick. Swayman is now 5-0-0 with a .954 save percentage and a 1.38 GAA on the season.
His best stretch of Thursday’s contest came in the second period. The Leafs had just tied the game with goals by Mitch Marner and Auston Matthews 63 seconds apart, and then they got another power play. Swayman https://twitter.com/EvanMarinofsky/status/1720243460093972964 during that penalty kill to keep the score even at two apiece. It was a huge moment in the game as Toronto tried to steal the momentum and take control of the scoreboard.
Even after that penalty kill, there was a five-minute stretch late in the second period where the Leafs created a couple of really good scoring chances. But Swayman thwarted each one.
“I really liked how we came back in the game,” Leafs head coach Sheldon Keefe said. “We had chances to really bury them in that second period with some point-blank opportunities and we failed on those.”
Sixty-five minutes wasn’t enough to settle this game. A shootout was required, and Swayman won the game for the Bruins when he denied Matthews.
The primary reason why the Bruins are 9-0-1 is their goaltending. Swayman and Linus Ullmark have been just as dominant as they were last season. Boston owns a league-best .946 save percentage as a team, way ahead of the New York Rangers (.928) in second place.
The Bruins have two of the top 10 goalies in the sport. That’s a pretty good foundation for success, especially in the regular season.
Here are some more Bruins notes from Thursday’s game:
— Pavel Zacha entered the 2023-24 NHL season with high expectations as he stepped into a top-six center role following the offseason retirements of Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci. It took a few games for Zacha to get going, but it’s safe to say he’s found his groove after another strong performance.
Zacha opened the scoring in the first period of Thursday night’s game. He found open space in the low slot, took a great pass from Brandon Carlo and shoveled the puck past Leafs goalie Ilya Samsonov.
Zacha scored zero goals with only one assist through Boston’s first five games. He was playing well, but the offense just wasn’t coming. His persistence has been rewarded of late, though, as Zacha has scored four goals with two assists in his last five games.
Zacha set career highs with 21 goals and 36 assists last season. It wouldn’t be surprising if he surpassed those totals in 2023-24 now that he’s playing in a top-six center role.
— Jake DeBrusk was a much more consistent offensive player last season compared to previous years, and he probably would have scored 30-plus goals if injuries didn’t force him to miss several weeks in January.
The 26-year-old winger has been unable to make much of an impact offensively this season with zero goals in his first eight games. But he finally found the back of the net Thursday with a second-period goal that gave Boston a 2-0 advantage.
DeBrusk also scored in the shootout with a nifty move.
“I thought he was humming all night long,” Bruins head coach Jim Montgomery said. “I thought he was the JD we saw a lot of nights last year, right? And sometimes it takes that first one to go in, and then that monkey is off your back and you just start being the player you are. I thought he was playing well before he got the goal, but I thought he got another gear after.”
— David Pastrnak is not the most physical player, but he’s also more than willing to throw his weight around. The superstar right wing delivered a huge hit on Leafs defenseman Morgan Reilly in the first period that got the crowd going after a sluggish start by Boston. Pastrnak was credited with three hits in the game, and his 18 hits on the season actually lead the Bruins. McAvoy is second with 17.
“I thought he’s been physical the last couple of games,” Montgomery said of Pastrnak. “I like it better when the puck is on his stick, but I love the fact he’s trying to lead us by playing the right way.”
— Rookie defenseman Mason Lohrei made his Bruins debut Thursday night, and by doing so he became the first Louisiana-born player to skate in an NHL game. Forty-two states (plus the District of Columbia) have been represented in the NHL. The eight states still waiting for their first NHL player are Arkansas, Hawaii, Kansas, Kentucky, New Mexico, Tennessee, West Virginia and Wyoming.
– – Charlie Coyle was dominant in the faceoff circle, winning 18 of his 22 draws. Most of them coming against Leafs center Auston Matthews, who lost all 11 faceoffs he took.
— While Matthews struggled on faceoffs, he found plenty of other ways to make an impact. He has been a thorn in the Bruins’ side since he came into the league as the No. 1 overall pick in the 2016 NHL Draft. The Leafs’ top center beat Swayman on an amazing shot in the second period that evened the score 2-2.
He also picked up the primary assist on Mitch Marner’s goal 63 seconds earlier. Matthews now has 19 points (10 goals, nine assists) in 16 career games against the Bruins.