Jeremy Swayman was not great in the Boston Bruins’ 5-1 loss in Game 5 at Carolina on Tuesday. But with the Bruins’ backs straight up against the wall, that fact did little to shake the faith that Coach Bruce Cassidy has in the rookie goalie.

Cassidy did not hesitate when asked on Wednesday for his starting goaltender for Thursday’s must-win Game 6 at the Garden. He’s going back with Swayman.

This will be the first time Swayman will have started four consecutive games this year. In fact, his start in Game 5 was only the second time that he had started three straight games. But Cassidy and his staff have not sensed any fatigue in the 23-year-old Swayman.

But he’ll need to be better than he was on Tuesday, and the coach acknowledged that. And in the games in Boston, Swayman has been better.

“I don’t think he looked his best (Tuesday),” said Cassidy. “What’s happened, and I’ll go to Game 3. Big, big saves early on (Tony) DeAngelo and the breakaway to (Jordan) Martinook. It gives us a little bit of ‘Hey, let’s find our game, even though they scored first. Those are important, timely saves. (Tuesday) night we didn’t get it. (Before) the first goal, we’re on them, another good start and we need that save early. It’s one you need to keep you in it.

“It didn’t happen, it gives them a little bit of life in their building. They’ve lost two in a row. They get a lead…They got timely saves and we didn’t and then they got some life from there and I’m not going to put it on the goaltender. Those are the saves we got at home that we’re going to need to (Thursday).”

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While the first goal was a costly one, Cassidy saw improvement in his goalie as the game went along, saying the second goal – DeAngelo’s power-play slapper – was the result of a screen, as well as a simple sounding characteristic. And Cassidy used those goals against to challenge his own skaters.

“Both goals hit the net,” said Cassidy “That is important. We’ve stressed that over and over. Get it on net, from your D-men, you never know. So give them credit. They hit the net on both shots. The first one (Jaccob Slavin’s goal) we need that save, the second one the puck has eyes and it’s got some velocity to it. And good for them. The third goal is just puck luck. Give (Seth) Jarvis a lot of credit. He’s hanging around the front of the net, so I’m not going to take anything away from him.

“But that’s a goal that goes in once a month….But I give him credit for being around the net and dirty areas. He’s a young kid that’s done a good job with that. We need a little more of that with our mentality with our guys who have been in the league. He’s not a big guy, Jarvis, but he found a way to get to the net front and that’s effective playoffs hockey.”

CASSIDY EXPECTS Hampus Lindholm, out since Game 2 after absorbing a huge hit from Andrei Svechnikov, to play in Game 6. The big defenseman skated with the extra players at Warrior Ice Arena on Wednesday. Cassidy said he’ll have a more definitive answer in the morning.

If Lindholm is ready, Cassidy acknowledged that that would leave him with a decision between Matt Grzelcyk and Mike Reilly as the odd man out. While the third pairing of Derek Forbort and Connor Clifton may not have been quite as good in Game 5 as it had been in the first four games, Cassidy said the duo has pretty much done its job, and then some. Also Lindholm, Reilly and Grzelcyk all bring certain puck-moving qualities while shot-eating Forbort brings a unique quality that he wouldn’t want to take out of the lineup.

Reilly started the series in the press box but came in when Lindholm was injured. Grzelcyk, meanwhile, has had a rough series. He was minus-2 with two penalties in Game 5 and is minus-6 in the series.

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“Griz needs to find his legs. He’s certainly played through an injury this year at times, but right now he’s not in this morning for treatment, so he just has to find his legs and find a little bit of his dynamic part of his games, quick plays through the neutral zone, finding little seams, being agile, all three zones,” said Cassidy. “He made a nice play to (Erik) Haula at the blue line. We just didn’t get the action at the net. It was a real good play in the second. A little more of those if you’re not going to be a shooter, then find those sticks. He’s a good transition player and that’s where we need him to spring some guys and make some plays to help generate some offense for us. Defensively, he got himself in the box (Tuesday) night. That’s typically not Griz. He isn’t in there much. That’s been a bit of Mike Reilly’s issue, but again, we hope the stick fouls get cleaned up.”

CHARLIE MCAVOY wasn’t interested in sharing the details of his bout with COVID-19 and his whirlwind trip into and out of the NHL’s protocols when he spoke to the media after the Game 5 loss.

“I cleared protocol today. I just want to leave it in the past,” said McAvoy, who later added. “I got sick. I went through it. I made it out the other side and here we are now.”

The Bruins announced that McAvoy had entered protocols within the hour before Game 4 on Sunday. After morning skate Tuesday, Cassidy was asked about McAvoy and Lindholm after the Bruins’ morning skate. He said Lindholm out and said “McAvoy won’t play.”

But McAvoy took a private jet from Boston and then a car service from the airport and was back in the Bruins’ top defenseman pairing along with Reilly.

Cassidy said later he wasn’t being coy or trying any kind of gamesmanship.

“Medical team tells me he’s going into protocol. Today they tell me he’s coming out. Whatever happened in between I didn’t take any interest in. I don’t know anything about the protocols. We were planning on playing without him,” Cassidy said. “It was a nice surprise when he got taken out of the protocols. Missing some time you could see he wasn’t 100 percent, but he gave it what he had. He should be better in Game 6.”

McAvoy had averaged a team-high 25 minutes, 15 seconds of ice time before COVID. Officially he played one second less than that at 25:14 including 3:41 of power-play time and 2:35 of penalty kill. He was minus-1. If the game had still been in reach, he likely would have played more time in the last five minutes.


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