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  • Takeaways: Battered Bruins earn gutsy OT win to begin road trip

    Tim Rosenthal February 22, 2024

    A battered Boston Bruins defense faced a difficult task entering their four-game road trip without Hampus Lindholm. After the opening shift, they had to labor on with only five defensemen upon Matt Grzelcyk’s exit a mere 65 seconds in.

    Any fully healthy blue-line core would have their hands full against star-studded talent like Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl and the rest of the Edmonton Oilers. Asking a shorthanded defensive squad to keep that Uber talent in check for over 60 minutes is an even taller order.

    The Bruins even endured a stretch of over five minutes with just four defensemen after Corey Perry instigated Parker Wotherspoon into a round of fists at the 6:20 mark of the middle frame.

    The defensive lapses along the goal crease continued, with Warren Foegele crashing the net for his first and second-period markers. 

    A usually reliable Jeremy Swayman encountered a rough night controlling rebounds, allowing Mattias Janmark, Perry and Zach Hyman to capitalize on second efforts along the goal mouth during the final 20 minutes.

    The Bruins watched three leads vanish, including their 4-1 cushion between the middle and final stanzas. Instead of succumbing to a shorthanded defensive core and costly mistakes, Jim Montgomery’s bunch kept persevering against McDavid and company.

    In front of his hometown friends and family, an assertive Jake DeBrusk got off the schneid with his best outing since the all-star break. The veteran winger snapped his nine-game skid late in the second period, crashing the net to pounce on a loose puck to extend the B’s lead to 4-1.

    The recently recalled Mason Lohrei notched three assists, with a timely keep-in on David Pastrnak’s third-period go-ahead goal highlighting his return to the Boston lineup.

    Morgan Geekie’s first-period power-play tally on a shot through traffic, Brad Marchand’s early-second-period snipe following a turnover, and Trent Frederic’s crafty tip shortly thereafter also paced Boston’s offense. But the Bruins needed one more bounce to pull off an unlikely win.

    A timely penalty kill and a return to 3-on-3 play gave the Bruins some needed momentum in overtime. Within the next two shifts of killing off James van Riemsdyk’s tripping infraction in the final seconds of regulation, the B’s completed the 6-5 win after Charlie McAvoy dangled through the Edmonton D to secure his ninth goal of the season.

    Here’s what we learned from Boston’s gutsy win north of the border.

    The left side of Boston’s blue line is in a world of hurt.

    The Bruins may have breathed a sigh of relief after Jim Montgomery revealed Grzelcyk’s status as “day-to-day” during his postgame press conference. But their issues on the back end are only getting magnified tenfold.

    Amid a shaky start to his second full year in Boston, Lindholm slowly showed signs of turning a corner over the last month. Regardless of his struggles, his recent lower-body injury came at an ill-opportune time.

    Injuries and inconsistencies plagued Grzelcyk and Derek Forbort. Regarding the latter, the turnovers and frequently missed assignments in high-danger scoring areas are only getting worse, be it at 5v5 or the penalty kill.

    Wotherspoon’s emergence provided one of the few encouraging developments within the defensive core. But the Bruins opted to return Wotherspoon into a rotational role with Kevin Shattenkirk on Boston’s third pair while providing Forbort ample opportunities to play through the roughest patch of his Bruins tenure.

    The Bruins only carried seven defensemen for their road trip, so Forbort will likely have an increased role if Grzelcyk misses extended time. 

    Regardless, the cap-strapped Bruins desperately need an overhaul on the left side of their blue line. 

    Without frequent bailouts from Swayman or Linus Ullmark, they’d be nowhere near the top of the Atlantic Division during the home stretch of their centennial campaign. And without an added rugged left-shot upgrade to help clear the front of the net — on any of their pairings — the Bruins will face more obstacles in potential playoff matchups against more physical and well-rounded squads like the Panthers and Hurricanes.

    For now, Montgomery and the coaching staff can only work with the personnel at hand. Amid another night of defensive liabilities — albeit shorthanded — the Bruins received a needed offensive presence out of their back end.

    A trio of helpers and a long-winded shift highlighted Lohrei’s return.

    Before sustaining a nasty cut to his leg from a skate blade in Charlotte on Feb. 3, Lohrei put forth one of the best offensive stretches of his first professional season during his third stint in Providence. A couple weeks later, and just two games after returning to top-pairing duty with the Baby B’s, Lohrei received another call from Don Sweeney.

    Lohrei wasn’t immune from Boston’s defensive lapses. But in a shorthanded spot, Lohrei provided a steady two-way hand as he ate up minutes in a second-pairing role with Brandon Carlo.

    Lohrei finished the night with 23:32 time on ice, trailing only Carlo (25:40) and McAvoy (29:43). Within that framework, Lohrei endured a long-winded 3:56 shift during the later stages of the middle stanza. Despite the flurry of chances, the failed clear attempts and a pair of icings, Lohrei survived and received a needed breather.

    “It was nice that we had intermission, so I didn’t have to go back out there,” Lohrei joked during his postgame interview session with the media.

    Lohrei had every reason to smile in one of his better outings at the NHL level.

    Between his quick decisions in transition and his supportive role in Boston’s attacking zone setup, Lohrei provided Boston’s blue line with a welcomed offensive jolt. The former Ohio State Buckeye set up Geekie for his power play marker, provided a secondary helper on Marchand’s second-period tally and interrupted a potential Oilers rush with a timely keep-in at the blue-line en route to Pastrnak’s go-ahead strike in the third.

    “I thought he was really good. I thought he played more direct — north — coming out of the D zone and at the offensive blue-line out of pressure,” Montgomery told reporters of Lohrei. “Obviously, when he had time and space, he made some real good plays. I thought he was good on the power play as well.”

    The DeBrusk’s cash in on a “golden ticket.”

    Apparently, Jake DeBrusk had another incentive to perform well with his fellow Edmontonians watching.

    During warmups, DeBrusk caught up with his father, Louie, an Oilers analyst for Sportsnet, for a pregame moment. During another wholesome moment between father and son, Louie revealed a “golden ticket” that Jake gave him years beforehand.

    Apparently, the ticket didn’t have an expiration date. With that in mind, the elder DeBrusk decided to cash in on that ticket.

    So what was on it?


    “A goal, assist or 30 pushups,” Louie DeBrusk said.

    The younger DeBrusk made that challenge worthwhile, notching his 13th of the season to give the Bruins a three-goal lead at 13:57 of the middle frame.


    After watching his father smile upon his trip through the goal line, Montgomery turned to DeBrusk’s spot on the bench to get the proverbial monkey off his back. While his recent efforts came into question since the all-star break, the oft-maligned DeBrusk used his footspeed and 200-foot traits to create numerous scoring bids in a bounce-back outing.

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    Tim Rosenthal

    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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