Anchorage’s Swayman establishes himself as dominant force as Bruins advance in Stanley Cup playoffs

TORONTO — There is no award for the MVP of a first-round NHL playoff series, but if there was one, Anchorage’s Jeremy Swayman would surely have won it.

From local Boston media to “Hockey Night in Canada” pundits to his own coach, that was the accolade repeatedly tossed toward the 25-year-old on Saturday night.

Swayman put in a phenomenal performance in backstopping the Boston Bruins over the Toronto Maple Leafs in a long and dramatic series that ended when David Pastrnak scored early in overtime of Game 7, for a win by the narrowest of margins.

All season long, Boston coach Jim Montgomery had platooned Swayman, who won the first game against Toronto, and Linus Ullmark, who lost the second. After that, Swayman got the nod for each of the last five games and put up some historically stellar statistics.

Over his six games played, the 2024 All-Star had a .950 save percentage, the third highest in the last 10 years by an NHL goalie in a postseason series. And his 1.49 goals against average is the third-lowest in the last 12 years.

In a tense and subdued Boston locker room after the Leafs had won Game 6 — putting Boston on the verge of becoming the first team in Stanley Cup playoff history to blow a 3-1 series lead two years in a row — Swayman stood out by emerging in great spirits, excited about the game to come, and prophetically full of confidence that he and his Bruins would find a way to emerge victorious in Game 7.

“I think it’s the beauty of playoffs,” said Swayman, who grew up attending UAA hockey games with his father, Ken. “We’re so lucky to have these ups and downs. As a team, and as a group, it brings us closer together. And we know from our greatest failures are going to come our greatest successes.”


As Montgomery pointed out after Game 6, the Bruins needed the rest of the team to be “more like Jeremy Swayman,” who Montgomery said had “owned the moment,” even in defeat.

From Swayman’s perspective, there are two forces that drove him to make sure he was at his best for the series.

The first was personal, going back to the NHL entry draft in 2017. After graduating from the University of Maine, Swayman spoke more with Leafs representatives than any other team. When Toronto’s fourth-round pick came along, he was certain he would be selected. Instead, he was left stunned when the Leafs chose a different 18-year-old goalie, Ian Scott.

Boston took Swayman with the very next pick.

When asked whether the experience gave him extra motivation to beat Toronto, Swayman chuckled and, with a big grin on his face, said: “Sure, I could definitely say yes to that.”

He was then quick to add his other driving force — and how he would not want to be anywhere other than Boston, and with no teammates other than this current crop of Bruins.

“The motivation is in this locker room,” said the 6-foot-2, 197-pounder, who played on the hockey team at South Anchorage High School. “It’s the logo we wear, the city we represent, the players that have worn it before us. That’s enough motivation to make us do anything.”

Following the Game 7 win, Swayman said despite the tension that’s usually associated with an elimination game overtime, he was able to savor the experience.

“I think the biggest thing was just (being) excited and enjoying the moment,” he said at his locker following the game. “Like I said earlier, a pinch-yourself moment, Game 7 overtime at home. It’s something you dream of as a kid and we could all get up for and be excited about. My mindset was just one shot at a time, doing my job and enjoying the process.”

Now the challenge becomes avenging last season’s stunning collapse against the Florida Panthers.

After setting an NHL record for the most points ever recorded in the regular season, and racing out to a 3-1 series lead, Boston lost twice with Ullmark playing poorly in net. Swayman started Game 7, and gave up the heartbreaking series-clinching goal in overtime.

The Panthers and Bruins will begin their series in south Florida on Monday night. The puck is set to drop at 4 p.m. AKDT. Swayman is expected to be back in net for Game 1, and if he plays as well as he did against Toronto, that is where he will be for the entirety of the series.

As he noted after Game 6 in Toronto, his philosophy will not change.

“I think we all understand that in the playoffs, every game is a Game 7. And that’s the intensity that we want to bring every night.”

Ed Klajman reported from Toronto.