Changes and updates galore for the Bruins
Boston Bruins Blogger •Bruins Feature Columnist • RSS
It didn’t take long for the Bruins’ best win, a 3-2 overtime win over the Panthers on Monday night at TD Garden (complete with the Bruins pulling themselves out of an 0-2 hole), of the season to become a mere footnote. In fact, it took all of about 12 hours for the discussions to shift elsewhere.
First, the good: Matt Poitras is sticking with the Bruins for the time being.
Monday featured Poitras’ ninth game with the club, and that was the official ‘deadline’ for the Bruins to decide whether or not they were going to send the 19-year-old back to OHL Guelph for more seasoning or keep him with the NHL roster. The Bruins opted for the latter, and this really wasn’t much debate. Especially not for Bruins head coach Jim Montgomery, who continues to up the first-year pro’s role and usage with the club, with Monday night featuring Poitras between Pavel Zacha and David Pastrnak.
“I think [with] his play…he earned it,” Montgomery, who informed the media before the Bruins informed Poitras himself, said Tuesday. “I think we’re comfortable with him. There’s no guarantees here for the rest of the year, but we feel that the way he’s progressed for the time being, he’s going to be a Bruin. And he’s helping us win hockey games and that’s the most important thing, right?
“He’s played faster [and] he’s continued to get better on both ends of the ice. But what I think is appealing to us is every time we start to think, ‘Well, this might be too much’ — whether it was exhibition season or the nine games — he just always finds a way to be like he belongs.”
In action for all nine games to date, the 5-foot-11 Poitras has potted three goals and totaled five points for the Bruins, and landed 16 shots on goal. He’s also been a bit grittier than many may have expected, with nine blocked shots and a dogged pursuit of the puck in all three zones.
“I think the number one reason why he’s going to play a 10th game is because of that,” Montgomery admitted. “You know, we see the hockey IQ, we see the skill, we see the vision. But if you don’t compete, don’t have natural second or third effort, especially at a young age, it’s hard to stay in this league. And that quality, that has been his best quality and why we think he’s earned this.”
It’ll be interesting to see how the Bruins manage Poitras down the stretch. The Bruins have hopes of playing more than 82 games this season — and based on what they’ve seen so far, they want Poitras to have involvement in their post-82 slate — and Poitras has never played more than 73 games in juniors. The Bruins are almost going to need to find ways to factor in some rest for him.
But their cap situation, as well as their current injury situation, may make it a bit more challenging than it is for say the Ducks and 2023 No. 2 overall pick Leo Carlsson.
Now, the bad: The Bruins suffered two losses on the backend.
The first came with Matt Grzelcyk’s in-game departure Monday due to an upper-body injury. Speaking after the win, Montgomery said that Grzelcyk’s injury would likely cost him a couple of weeks. On Wednesday, the team moved him to the long-term injured reserve and recalled three defensemen from AHL Providence (more on them in a bit).
The Bruins also lost Charlie McAvoy to a match penalty on an illegal check to the head of the Panthers’ Oliver Ekman-Larsson, and the NHL’s Department of Player Safety hit McAvoy with a four-game ban the following day. When it comes to McAvoy, there’s no defending the hit. You understand McAvoy’s desire to lay the lumber when he can (it’s part of what makes him so effective when he’s truly on his game), but he’s gotta find a way to hold up there. He’s simply too important to take those kinds of penalties, and there’s a case to be made that this was a ‘lighter’ punishment.
So, with Grzelcyk and McAvoy both unavailable for the next little bit here, the Bruins recalled Ian Mitchell, Parker Wotherspoon, and Mason Lohrei up from Providence.
Mitchell is no mystery (he’s made two appearances for the B’s this season) and Wotherspoon made 12 NHL appearances with the Isles last year. But it’s Lohrei that’s going to grab the headlines in this one, and rightfully so, as the Black and Gold hope that he is indeed the real deal and their long-term solution to the team’s seemingly undying need for high-impact defensemen on the left side.
A second-round pick in 2020, Lohrei nearly pushed his way into an NHL gig out of this year’s training camp, but Montgomery and the Bruins stressed the need for him to log some big-time minutes in Providence. Minutes that he simply wasn’t going to get out of the gate here in Boston.
So it was off to Providence, where the 6-foot-4 defender put up four assists in seven games prior to his call to Boston. And now that he’s here, the Bruins have big plans for Lohrei, with the 22-year-old slated to play in a top-four role opposite Brandon Carlo on Thursday night against the Maple Leafs.
I mean, this is by all means the perfect way to utilize Lohrei. With McAvoy suspended, there’s an opening for a power-play quarterback. And with Grzelcyk out, there’s minutes to be had. Anything else would’ve been a waste given Lohrei’s high-ceiling type of talent.
Now comes seeing how patient the Bruins can be when it comes to Lohrei’s rawness as a pro.