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Around The Rinks: Jeremy Swayman’s first-round heroics rocket him up list of most significant Stanley Cup performances by Alaskans

by | May 5, 2024 | Cover Story, Hockey

Anchorage’s Jeremy Sayman. Photo courtesy Boston Bruins

Boston Bruins goaltender Jeremy Swayman of Anchorage delivered another smothering performance Saturday night to backstop a 2-1 Game 7 overtime gutting of the haunted Toronto Maple Leafs and cap a first-round effort for the ages.

In making 29 saves, including a short-handed breakaway and then – horrors! – a near own-goal at the regulation buzzer, courtesy of a ricochet off a teammate – talk about a bad bounce of the biscuit – Swayman finished the series with ridiculous numbers. He went 4-2-0, with a 1.49 goals-against average and .950 save percentage. Those latter two numbers led all goaltenders who were their club’s principal starting masked man.

Straight-up opinion: Swayman’s performance was the best in NHL history by an Alaskan in a Stanley Cup series.

Swayman never permitted more than two goals in any of his six series starts. Ditto for his three regular-season games, all wins, over Toronto. All told versus the Leafs this season: 7-2-0, 1.43, .953. Remember, Toronto was the NHL’s No. 2 offense in the regular season.

Fluto Shinzawa of The Athletic nailed it after Boston’s 3-1 win in Game 4 in Toronto, where Swayman snuffed 23 shots: “In 2023-24, Swayman has executed a hostile takeover of the Bruins’ biggest rival of late. He is the new chairman of Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment. Swayman owns the Leafs.’’

So, as the Bruins prepare for Monday’s Game 1 of their second-round series against the Florida Panthers, who roared back from a 3-1 series deficit to eliminate Boston in the opening round last season, where does Swayman’s performance against Toronto rate all-time among Alaskans?

It tops the charts for a single round, and I say it’s No. 3 all-time – look, center Scotty Gomez of Anchorage won two Cups with the New Jersey Devils. The Cup is The Holy Grail.

Here’s how I have it:

No. 1 – Scotty Gomez, Anchorage, 2000 New Jersey Devils: You win the Cup, you win the crown. The rookie center put up 4-6—10 scoring totals in 23 games, including 2-3—5 totals in six games to eliminate Toronto in the second round, despite playing just 12-plus minutes per game in the series. He won the Calder Trophy as the NHL’s Rookie of the Year that season.

No. 2 – Scotty Gomez, Anchorage, 2003 New Jersey Devils: See above. Gomez racked 3-9—12 in 24 games as the Devils beat Anaheim in Game 7 of the Final.

No. 3 – Jeremy Swayman, Anchorage, 2024 Boston Bruins: Just stupid numbers. No notes. But, still, just a single round. Granted, a glorious single round.

No. 4 – Scotty Gomez, Anchorage, 2001 New Jersey Devils. He put up 5-9—14 totals in 25 games, and the Devils lost in the Final to Raymond Bourque and the Colorado Avalanche. Gomez strafed Carolina for 2-4—6 and plus-6 totals in six first-round games.

(Let that soak in: Gomez in his first three seasons won two Cups and played in the Final the other year. All by age 22.)

No. 5 – Matt Carle, Anchorage, 2010 Philadelphia Flyers: The defenseman posted 1-12—13 totals in 23 games as the Flyers fell to Patrick Kane and the Chicago Blackhawks in six games in the Final. Carle in the second round furnished six assists in a seven-game victory over Boston. He dropped four assists and a plus-5 rating on the Bruins in Game 4 for the most points by an Alaskan in a single Stanley Cup game.

Honorable mentions: Gomez in 2008 for the New York Rangers went 4-7—11 in 10 playoff games and dogged his old club, New Jersey, for 3-4—7 totals and a plus-5 rating in five first-round games. Also, Anaheim center Nate Thompson of Anchorage went 2-4—6 in 17 games in 2017, when the Ducks fell in six games to Nashville in the Western Conference Finals. Thompson went 1-3—4 in a first-round sweep of Calgary, going 1-2—3 in Game 3 and scoring a goal in Game 4, despite averaging just 12:30 of ice time per game.

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