By: Lauren Spencer | Follow Me On Twitter @laurenspenc
The Boston team keeps finding ways to win as the Bruins’ season continues on a successful start. Despite injuries to multiple players and a four-game suspension for Charlie McAvoy, the Bruins have started the season with a 10-1-1 record, earning 21 out of 24 possible points in their first twelve games. This has come in large part due to Jim Montgomery putting faith in his younger players and allowing them to step up under pressure.
One of the most significant stories coming out of Boston this season is surrounding 19-year-old Matthew Poitras, who excelled during camp and the start of the season. After the questions at the beginning of the season regarding whether Poitras would remain with Boston past the first nine games or return to his OHL team, it was clear that the Bruins would need him with the big club. Montgomery giving Poitras this opportunity shows that he is determined to give the team the best opportunity to succeed despite age or size. A clip released by the Bruins online also showed how Montgomery encouraged Poitras during practice after one of the goalies stopped his shot attempt. Giving players constructive criticism and encouragement can go a long way in their development, especially at the start of their careers.
Poitras has stepped into one of the vacant center positions, with his line changing often depending on chemistry and opponent. Against the Maple Leafs, he was centering Pavel Zacha and David Pastrnak on the second line. Replacing David Krejci on that line is a tall task, but Poitras has been given a massive opportunity for success. Montgomery allowing Poitras to play with one of the best goal scorers in the world shows how much he trusts Poitras’ decisions on ice. He was also on the ice during the overtime period against Toronto, on a line with Pastrnak and defenseman Mason Lohrei. These three took the ice against the dangerous trio of Auston Matthews, William Nylander, and Morgan Rielly. While an excellent player, Pastrnak is not known for his defensive prowess. Trusting Poitras and Lohrei to step up in dangerous situations shows that Montgomery is allowing these players to show their potential against some of the best in the world.
In addition to Bergeron and Krejci’s retirements, the Bruins also lost their fourth-line center, Tomas Nosek, during free agency. Nosek was never a high-point scorer, but he excelled in the faceoff dot and on the penalty kill. Luckily for the Bruins, Johnny Beecher has stepped into that role perfectly. So far this season, Beecher has a team-high face-off win percentage of 58.1%. While his offense has not picked up yet, Montgomery has given him a role that he excels in and benefits the team overall.
Beecher started the season on a line with Jakub Lauko and Milan Lucic, but both have been sidelined due to injuries. This line was the first line of Bruins forwards to Montgomery sent to the ice this season, with Beecher winning the opening faceoff against Connor Bedard. These three players had great chemistry early and will look to return to form once Lucic and Lauko make their respective returns. In the mean time, Montgomery has kept Beecher as a constant on the fourth line, with Patrick Brown, Oskar Steen, and Danton Heinen all rotating through. While on a line with Steen and Trent Frederic against Dallas, Beecher was able to generate offense for his first career goal.
Montgomery also had tough decisions to make regarding the defense, following injuries to Derek Forbort and Matt Grzelyck and Charlie McAvoy’s suspension. Making your NHL debut is already a daunting task, and this feeling probably multiplies when the game is against a formidable division rival like the Leafs. Despite this, 22-year-old Mason Lohrei looked like a seasoned veteran on against Toronto. He had great poise with the puck and his defense played a significant role in the victory. Despite it being his first NHL game, Lohrei was paired with Brandon Carlo and given top-four minutes. It’s rare for a player to be put in this position in their debut, but Montgomery giving this opportunity to a young player will help him build his confidence throughout the season. If Lohrei continues to impress, it will make for tough decisions regarding the future of the Bruins’ defense.
In his debut, Lohrei earned his first point for a secondary assist on Zacha’s opening goal. He recorded three shots on goal in his 21:28 TOI. Lohrei also had a shift during overtime, showing how much Montgomery trusted his gameplay. After the game, Montgomery had high praise for him, describing him as “dynamite” and sharing that Providence Head Coach Ryan Mougenel said Lohrei played better than he had in any AHL game this season.
Even though he took two questionable penalties against Detroit in their first regulation loss, Lohrei has shown flashes of great potential. Allowing players to learn and grow from mistakes is something that Montgomery excels at and will motivate Lohrei further in his next games with Boston. This was shown against Dallas, as Lohrei was able to score his first career goal during the first period.