(Photo Credit: Dennis Schneidler/USA TODAY Sports)

By: Tom Calautti | Follow me on Twitter @TCalauttis and Linktree

Poitras Earns His Spot

The debate is over, and the final decision is clear: Matt Poitras belongs on this roster. Poitras slotted in as Boston’s third-line center last night, centering a line between Trent Frederic and Morgan Geekie. The 19-year-old phenom cemented his spot on the Bruins’s opening night roster with the game-winning goal in the third period of Thursday’s contest.

Poitras has accepted every challenge Jim Montgomery and the Bruins coaching staff have thrown him and passed with flying colors. He’s spent time on the power play (working both in the bumper spot and on the wing), killed penalties, and played up and down the lineup with multiple line combinations. The team has done its best to challenge every facet of the young center’s game, and he has risen to the occasion every chance he’s gotten.

It’s still too early to tell whether Poitras sticks for the entire season or if he only lasts for nine games (a tenth would burn the first year of his entry-level contract), but what is clear is that he deserves a look with the NHL squad. After five points in five preseason games, Poitras is ready for the big time.

Lohrei Stays Solid

Mason Lohrei showed off his ability to drive play, and generate offense in last night’s game. Boston’s top prospect skated with Brandon Carlo last night, allowing him to step into the play and contribute on offense. They were arguably Boston’s best pair, shutting down the Rangers and swinging play in the other direction.

Lohrei has done more than enough to prove himself capable of playing NHL minutes, and the question is how the Bruins want to address his development. Lohrei has all the tools of a top-four defenseman; ice time is the last piece of the puzzle. He’s already better than Forbot and Shattenkirk, but playing bottom-pairing minutes does nothing for him. If Don Sweeney & Co. aren’t going to start him beside Mcavoy or Carlo, he should spend the first part of the season in Providence and get as many reps as he can.

Whatever the organization chooses, last night’s game proved without a doubt that Lohrei is the future.

Beecher Wins Fourth Line Center…or Brown Loses It

Johnny Beecher has been pushing all preseason to earn Boston’s fourth-line center spot, and last night confirmed that he deserves it. Beecher didn’t do much on the offensive end of the ice in this game, but he made some crucial plays in his own zone. There was no sequence that highlighted why Beecher belongs more than when he engaged a Rangers defenseman along the boards and kicked a puck out of the zone on a late powerplay, relieving pressure for a tired penalty kill.

The other facet of this battle is the performance of Patrick Brown. The NHL journeyman simply hasn’t done enough to beat out Beecher. Beecher is a better offensive player, has an edge in physical tools, and is a good enough defender to make it a close call between him and Brown. The line of Lucic-Beecher-Lauko has been one of Boston’s best this preseason, and there’s no reason they shouldn’t be the opening night fourth line.

Big Trouble in the Bottom Pairing

Going into this season, the organization planned to roll out Derek Forbort and newcomer Kevin Shattenkirk as their bottom two defensemen. That may be in jeopardy going forward, given Forbort’s performance across his last two games. The veteran defenseman has been unable to break out pucks cleanly, and he shouldered at least some blame for the Rangers’s lone goal.

Forbort has been a liability on the backend since he returned from injury prior to the 2022-23 playoffs, and he hasn’t gotten any better. I understand that the team values his performance as a penalty killer, but that can’t continue overshadowing his five-on-five game’s flaws. I’m fairly confident he’ll be on the opening night roster, but his performance will be something to monitor going forward.

Defense Improves

All Forbort commentary aside, Boston’s backend had a return-to-form performance at Madison Square Garden. After giving up five goals to Washington on Tuesday, the Bruins held the Rangers to only one goal and ten high-danger chances.

The unit consisting of Charlie McAvoy, Matt Grzelcyk, Mason Lohrei, Forbort, Brandon Carlo, and Ian Mitchell limited New York’s five-on-five opportunities and were perfect on the penalty kill against the high-octane power play. The Bruins will need to lean on their defense and goaltending to win games this season, so it was nice to see them shut down one of the league’s better offenses without Hampus Lindholm.