For the last month, Matthew Poitras lodged himself at one of the local hotels in the Boston area.
The talented rookie centerman passed his first audition with the Bruins after making the opening night roster. But his spot wasn’t guaranteed for the long term. The Bruins could’ve sent Poitras back to Guelph (OHL) to finish his junior hockey eligibility after his ninth NHL game.
Indeed, Poitras picked up where he left off, tallying three goals and two assists in that nine-game stretch. On Tuesday, he met with Don Sweeney following an optional practice at Warrior Ice Arena.
Poitras felt he performed well enough to remain in Boston. Before he received his confirmation of his status in Boston, however, Poitras still encountered nerves heading into that meeting with the ninth-year general manager.
“I had the idea it was going to be good news,” Poitras recalled. “I was still a little nervous, but when he said you’re going to stick around for your 10th game and to keep working hard and preparing the same way, you’ll be fine.”
The Bruins entered their centennial season facing uncertainty at center in the first year without Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci. Poitras’ development provides a needed shot in the arm for their future plans down the middle.
Like Bergeron and Krejci before him, Poitras prides himself on his attention to detail with and without the puck. Because of that, Poitras didn’t feel he needed a specific moment to prove his worth to his new club.
“I think it’s not just one moment,” Poitras said. “I think it’s a combination of playing each game and feeling a little more comfortable and getting the idea of making a small play here and there where it’s like, yeah, maybe I do have a little more time and space and a little more poise that I can play my game and create offense, which is what I do best…and to keep simplifying things.”
The simple approach allowed Poitras to shine during the tail end of Boston’s four-game road trip. The 2022 second-round pick drove hard to the net, finding enough space in front of the crease to notch the tying and go-ahead markers in Anaheim on Oct. 22.
Two nights later, Poitras used his speed and quickness to blow past Chicago’s D for a mini-breakaway tally to extend Boston’s lead to 2-0 over the Blackhawks.
As with every NHLer, Poitras isn’t immune from the off night. He encountered the first setback of his career in the third game of the season — and his first time in a top-six role — struggling with turnovers and puck possession in San Jose.
Poitras committed another ill-timed defensive zone turnover during Monday’s matchup with Florida after getting pickpocketed by Panthers captain Aleksander Barkov. Sam Reinhart quickly capitalized on Poitras’ mishap, extending Florida’s lead to 2-0 late in the first period.
“That was a tough turnover, but I still felt I was going to make the right play. Barkov has a good stick — a long stick — and he kind of got it on me at the last second when I was about to feed up the middle,” Poitras said.
The turnover didn’t rattle Poitras. But the Bruins needed an offensive boost following a slow 20 minutes.
As part of another round of in-game changes, Montgomery put Poitras in between Boston’s pair of crafty Czechs in Pavel Zacha and David Pastrnak.
Unlike his rough outing in San Jose, the Bruins allowed Poitras to play through his struggles against Florida.
“Monty said to move on and that you’re going to make the right play. And then the guys patted me on the butt and saying, ‘don’t worry about it.'” Poitras said about Monday’s blunder.
“I don’t want to make one mistake crumble me and affect my game. I’m glad the coaching staff has confidence in me so I can keep playing and keep playing my game.”
The mistakes haven’t rattled Poitras. And he hasn’t gotten too caught up in his personal highs.
But as his 10th game awaits, Poitras isn’t content with merely passing his first two auditions. He knows his spot in the middle of Boston’s lineup isn’t guaranteed, after all.
“For me, I’m still going to play with the pressure and play with the mindset that I’m trying to make a team and I’m trying to stick around for the rest of the year,” Poitras added. “Just because I’m playing my 10th game doesn’t mean I’m going to be here the rest of the year. So, for me, it’s just to keep working hard and to do the little things.”
The highs and the lows will continue. But Poitras won’t need to book a one-way ticket back to Guelph anytime soon.
Instead, the 19-year-old can now search for more comfortable living arrangements.
“Hotel is not bad,” Poitras said. “But it’s time to get another [place].”
Tim Rosenthal serves as the Managing Editor of Bruins Daily. He started contributing videos to the site in 2010 before fully coming on board during the Bruins' Stanley Cup run in 2011. His bylines over the last decade have been featured on Boston.com, FoxSports.com, College Hockey News, Patch and Inside Hockey. You can follow Tim on Twitter @_TimRosenthal.
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