With Red Gendron on his mind, Jeremy Swayman leans on lessons learned
After Jake DeBrusk knuckled a puck over the shoulder of Sabres’ goalie Dustin Tokarski, giving the Bruins the shootout win, down at the other end of the ice, Bruins’ goalie Jeremy Swayman pointed upwards.
We all know who Swayman was thinking of.
This past Friday while golfing, University of Maine head coach Red Gendron passed away unexpectedly at the age of 63. Gendron coached Swayman in both of his seasons in Maine.
But to Swayman, Gendron was more than a hockey coach.
"We all know how impactful Red was to the hockey community, especially my life. I loved Red so much and the things he taught me, I’ll have for the rest of my life,” said Swayman. “I’m grateful for the experiences I had with him and he’s definitely going to be a role model for the rest of my life.”
The start was Swayman’s second since the passing of Gendron, the first in front of the TD Garden crowd.
“I know he would want me to be even-keeled, he’s that kind of a leader. No matter how he felt, he would have a smile on his face and he was honestly incredible—he always knew what to say even in the most trying times,” said Swayman.
“It’s something I want to continue to honor him. If I could teach someone else what he taught me, I think that would be a pretty incredible gift.”
Scheduled as the starter for Saturday, Bruins’ head coach Bruce Cassidy gave Swayman the option of sitting out, or moving forward with his start. No one would have blamed Swayman for sitting out, his mind obviously elsewhere.
But Swayman did exactly what he knew Gendron would want him to do. He went out and despite the loss to the Flyers, he gave the team a chance.
Swayman bounced back nicely on Tuesday, leading the Bruins to the shootout victory with a 21-save performance.
“I know what he would want me to do and that would be to go out and play my game and have fun doing it,” said Swayman. “That’s what I tried to do today and that’s what I try to do every day. I want to do everything I can to honor him and continue his legacy, because he would do the same thing.”
Usually shootouts aren’t something goalies see quite often before making it to professional hockey, but even with it, it’s a part of the game that oddly enough, Swayman enjoys.
“I love shootouts, I think it’s one of the best parts of the game if we get to it. Today, I was able to try that and it was pretty cool to get the home win for the crowd, that was a pretty special moment. I know I wasn’t alone out there, it was a pretty special moment,” said Swayman.
“It’s a flow thing, matching the shooters speed. I haven’t mastered it yet, but working on it every day. Those two shots today were both quality chances and I was super happy to get that save. But I practice it every day and shootouts are my favorite part of hockey. I’m going to keep continuing to work on it.”
Tuukka Rask is expected back Thursday for the first of two against the Islanders. And at some point over the next week or so, you would expect Jaroslav Halak’s name to be removed from the COVID-19 protocol list.
Swayman will shortly be back in the AHL, leading the Providence? Marlborough? Bruins as he was prior to his call-up.
And that’s just fine for Swayman.
What he’s been able to do in his brief time at the NHL level, just a handful of months into his professional hockey career has been nothing short of impressive. The experience he’s earned tops it all.
Apparently, experience is something not sold in stores.
“It’s one game at a time. It’s a pro season, my first one and I try to do whatever I can training wise to prepare for it,” said Swayman.
“But like Red said, ‘you can’t buy experience from Target.’ I have to go in with an open mind every day and gain that experience, that’s what I’m trying to do.”