(Photo Credit: Andy Devlin/NHLI via Getty Images)

By: Jason Cooke | Follow me on Twitter / X @cookejournalism

Mason Lohrei stepped up on Wednesday night. After the Boston Bruins recalled him from Providence ahead of the team’s four-game road trip with the status of Hampus Lindholm looming, the 6’5″ blueliner was on the lineup card for his first National Hockey League game since January 18th. When Matt Grzelyck went down with an injury in the first period, the Bruins rolled with five defensemen—and Lohrei shined.

Lohrei—who totaled 1-6-7 in his most recent seven-game stretch in the American Hockey League—broke out of his shell on Wednesday. Collecting three assists while logging 23:32 of time on ice, Lohrei’s efforts were at the nucleus of Boston’s 6-5 overtime victory. And with an injured Bruins blue line, Lohrei most likely won’t go anywhere for the foreseeable future.

“I thought he was really good,” head coach Jim Montgomery told reporters after the win. “He played more direct (and) north coming out of the (defensive) zone and at the offensive blue line under pressure, and obviously when he had time and space he made some real good plays. I thought he was really good on the power play as well.”

Lohrei picked up an assist in all three periods en route to the most playing time he’s skated as an NHLer. While it wasn’t perfect, Lohrei provided a lift in Wednesday night’s offensive showdown, showcasing his ability to make plays all over the ice. Let’s break down some of his best and worst shifts from the win.

His first assist came on the power play at 2:34 of the first period. Positioned at the top of the zone, he collected a pass from Charlie Coyle on the bumper. In this situation, he has a plethora of options. He could fire a puck on net, kick it out to Trent Frederic on the left flank, or dish it laterally to Morgan Geekie. While there wasn’t a bad option in play, being in this spot is all about timeliness. Lohrei didn’t waste any. He picks his head up, performs one quick stick handle, and immediately finds Geekie, who fires a puck past Stuart Skinner through a screen. It wasn’t flashy, but it was perfectly executed and shouldn’t go unnoticed. Lohrei’s poise at the blueline is most certainly one of the more polished aspects he brings to the table.

“I felt pretty good,” Lohrei said after the game. “Obviously, things to work on, but it was nice to get out there and play freely and try to move pucks and do what I do.”

Lohrei continued to make an impact. Although his effort on Frederic’s goal in the second period didn’t land his name on the scorer’s table, Lohrei’s play along the blue line once again was evident. This time, his pass across the stripe didn’t call for any stickhandles. He knew where Charlie McAvoy was positioned on the right side, slapping a pass to him to set up the play. Again, this isn’t a flashy move from Lohrei. But it’s the right one, and he made it look easy.

His third-period helper on David Pastrnak’s go-ahead goal was yet another display of skill and patience. Collecting a loose puck along the boards, Lohrei skates into it with speed, drawing his defender towards him until dropping the puck backward to a trailing Pastrnak. He skated into the slot, making no mistake on a well-placed wrist shot past Skinner. Like all of his good plays on Wednesday night, it was yet another simple but wise decision that led to a tally on the scoreboard. His awareness is impressive—similar to his pass on the Frederic goal, he knew Pastrnak was skating behind him in a shooting position. Lohrei was one step ahead of the defense in last night’s win.

However, it wasn’t all sunshine for the rookie defender. If one area of his game needs more attention to detail, it’s his play in the defensive zone. While he’s skilled with the puck on his stick, he endured a few shifts where he made some blunders. Holding a two-goal lead in the second period, Lohrei was introduced to the speedy Connor McDavid and how dangerous he can truly be.

He let him escape out of the corner with the puck, resulting in a point-blank scoring chance for the best player in the world. Immediately after the shot went wide, Lohrei retrieved a puck in the left corner, turning it over to Zach Hyman behind the net. That’s two caused scoring opportunities in one shift, one that he wishes to have back. But that was against one of the top lines in the NHL, and it was one of the few dark spots amidst a strong showing for Lohrei.

Lohrei has been hauled back and forth between Boston and its AHL affiliate all season, with some fans believing he should be a mainstay. If Bruins management is considering holding him with the big club, his performance on Wednesday makes a strong case for that argument. Nonetheless, injuries will most likely keep him in the lineup until Lindholm and Grzelyck can return. Ahead of their tilt with the Calgary Flames on Thursday, the team announced they recalled Ian Mitchell from Providence to add depth to the blue line as the road trip continues.