Bruins rookie’s evolution pointing toward stardom

In his postgame press conference after the Bruins’ Game 7 win to close out their first-round series over the Maple Leafs on Saturday, Jim Montgomery said he hoped Mason Lohrei had turned a corner.

How Mason Lohrei Has Continued To Grow Into His NHL Role - Boston Bruins News, Analysis and More

The rookie defenseman had been up and down from the AHL during the season showing both promise and inconsistency filling in for injured veterans. He sat out Games 1 and 2 of the Toronto series. But once Lohrei got in the lineup for Game 3, his evolution took another step.

“Game 6 and 7 were moments for him,” Montgomery said. “I hope it’s his coming out party and he feels like ‘I’m an NHL player, I’m going to help the Bruins from now on’.”

Two days later, Lohrei made his coach look prophetic. In Boston’s Game 1 win over the Panthers, Lohrei’s first playoff goal put the Bruins ahead to stay in the second period, but the quality of the shot stood out as much as its impact.

To score the way he did, Lohrei first had to see the opportunity. Then he needed to be able to shoot well enough to fire the puck through a tiny opening from a difficult angle. Most of all, he had to believe he was capable of pulling it off.

Few players, even in the NHL, can check the vision, skill and confidence boxes needed in that split second. But Lohrei did and didn’t hesitate.

With less than four minutes left in a tied second period, Lohrei joined the attack, collecting the puck in the left-wing faceoff circle. From inside the dot, he sniped a shot through a small opening under the crossbar, to the right of Sergei Bobrovsky’s head and above the goalie’s right shoulder to put Boston up 2-1.
He recognized that with David Pastrnak, coming to the net from the other side, Bobrovsky would have to lean just enough to give him a little more room.
David Pastrnak Selected to 2024 NHL All-Star Game | Boston Bruins
“I saw it open. Pasta was on the back door and the goalie has to respect that,” Lohrei said. “He went down a little, so I put it upstairs.”
The 23-year-old brushed it off like it wasn’t difficult. Montgomery knows better.
“His poise with the puck and willingness to hang on to it to find a better play is amazing. His ability to do that in big moments, it’s huge,” said Montgomery, who compared it to Pastrnak’s almost clairvoyant sense of what’s about to happen. “You think, why isn’t (Pastrnak) shooting? Well, he’s waiting for the five-hole to open or something. (LohreI) has that ability as a defenseman to make that kind of play.”
This is what the Bruins hoped Lohrei would become when they selected him in the second round. The 6-foot-5, 211-pound former Ohio State star is a rare mix of size, skating and puck-handling ability. This season Lohrei has shown both the capacity for improvement and the feel and creativity he showed on Monday night’s goal.

“The way he’s handled the Stanley Cup playoffs, the emotion of it, the intensity of it. I think it has propelled him,” Montgomery said. “He’s an extremely competitive player. … It shows with his poise with the puck. … You have to have players that want the puck in big moments.”

Press Room: Jim Montgomery | Boston Bruins

With Andrew Peeke expected to be cleared to return during this series, the Bruins will have nine available defensemen for six spots, creating some challenging decisions for Montgomery. But it’s becoming harder and harder to picture Lohrei coming out. He offers a combination of skills no other Bruins player possesses.
“The sky’s the limit for him and he’s got an extremely high ceiling as his potential is off the charts,” said Charlie McAvoy, who has spent a lot of playoff time paired with the rookie. “He’s worked really hard and he deserves to be here. He looks like he’s flourishing now.”
Lohrei hoped he’s just scratching the surface.
“I hope that every day I’m becoming the player I want to be,” he said. “Just doing little things, trying to build my game to get better and help this team.”

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