After opening the preseason with a 3-0 win over the Rangers on Sunday, the Bruins’ second preseason game didn’t go quite as smoothly, with Boston falling 4-1 to the Sabres in Buffalo Tuesday night.
Did any Bruins make a positive impression in second preseason game?
Here are some takeaways from the game:
-- Top defense prospect Mason Lohrei played the role of workhorse in his preseason debut, logging a game-high 29:01 time on ice. No one else on either team played more than 24:03, and no other Bruin even reached the 20-minute mark.
Lohrei looked good in those minutes, too. He was smooth with the puck on his stick, he was active offensively, and he really only made one glaring mistake defensively, when he gave the puck away on a blind pass up the boards. He assisted on the Bruins’ lone goal, getting his shot through from the point to create a rebound that Oskar Steen buried. The Bruins had 62.4% of expected goals during Lohrei’s 20 five-on-five minutes and high-danger chances were 4-1 Boston during his shifts.
While the Sabres also had a lot of prospects in their lineup, Lohrei definitely faced some real NHLers. In fact, more than 40% of his five-on-five ice time (8:11 of it) came against Tage Thompson, and the star center didn’t get much going against Lohrei and Brandon Carlo. Shots on goal were 2-2 and high-danger chances were 1-1 during that matchup.
Lohrei, who played just eight AHL games after signing out of Ohio State last spring, faces an uphill battle to make the opening night roster, but he certainly helped his case Tuesday night by not looking out of place at all. Lohrei would probably have to steal a job from someone in the top six; infrequent ice time as the seventh or eighth defenseman would not help his development.
-- When Jim Montgomery was asked during his NESN postgame interview about who stood out to him, the first player he named was forward Jesper Boqvist.
“I thought Boqvist did a lot of really good things offensively and defensively,” Montgomery said. “You can tell he's an intelligent, responsible player.”
Montgomery spoke about Boqvist after Tuesday’s morning skate, too, highlighting his speed and agility while also calling for him to get to the inside more.
“Really fast. Not only is he fast once he gets going, but he's quick in small areas, too. So he's got two good elements of speed,” Montgomery said. “He's got a good brain. Saw him make some plays already out there today. He's similarly quick to how we want to play. What we want from him more, and this is also with the team, is having two on the inside in the offensive zone. Get into harder areas, because I think he has the skill to produce, but he's got to get himself in the areas to produce.”
Boqvist had five shots on goal Tuesday, second-most on the team. He helped win a couple battles down low and got himself open in the slot – that inside area – a couple times. Signed this summer after not getting a qualifying offer from the Devils, the 24-year-old isn’t a lock to make the opening night roster, but if he continues to play the way Montgomery wants, he probably will. It is telling that Montgomery named Boqvist as a highlight and not any of the other candidates for bottom-six jobs who were on the ice Tuesday night.
-- Speaking of those other bottom-six candidates, it was a pretty mixed bag. After being one of the stars Sunday night, Johnny Beecher had a quieter follow-up. He still did some good things for sure, including drawing a penalty, but he had some pretty uneventful shifts, too. He had one shot on goal, zero hits, and was 4-of-8 on faceoffs. He didn’t do anything to hurt himself, but he didn’t really improve on Sunday’s performance or even match it, either.
Jakub Lauko and Marc McLaughlin both took tough penalties. Lauko got called for a slash on a backcheck in the second period, got out of the box, and then went right back in six seconds later when he tripped up a Sabre at the offensive blue line. McLaughlin took an offensive-zone tripping penalty in the third period with the Bruins trying to mount a comeback.
Lauko created a good scoring chance shortly after his second penalty by using his speed to beat a defender down the wing. McLaughlin kept several plays alive in the offensive zone with good second efforts later in the third period, and he also won eight of his 14 faceoffs. Maybe all that “makes up” for the penalties for both of them, but ideally there wouldn’t have been anything to make up for in the first place. Lauko won a roster spot out of camp last year, to the surprise of many. McLaughlin just missed, also to the surprise of many. Both may be right on that fine line again, so every little thing matters.
Oskar Steen was probably a little behind those guys coming in, but he may have closed the gap a bit Tuesday. He scored Boston’s lone goal with 2:01 left in the game by crashing the net for a rebound. He also had a game-high six shots on goal. Steen has 26 games of NHL experience over the last three years, but just three came last year. He might seem like a longshot to make the opening night roster, but so did Lauko at this time last year.
Then there’s the two veterans in camp on tryouts: Danton Heinen and Alex Chiasson. Montgomery praised both of them Tuesday morning, but also concisely laid out what they need to do.
“I think both have been very effective in camp so far,” he said. “You can tell that they're NHL players and they have NHL brains and they work at the right pace. They need to outplay people. That's what needs to happen.”
It would be hard to argue they did that Tuesday night. Neither Heinen nor Chiasson made any glaring mistakes or anything, but they didn’t do anything to stand out either. That was kind of a theme for this whole group, really. It was especially surprising how little physicality everyone brought to the table given that Montgomery has publicly called for more from his team. Even Milan Lucic (0 hits) was quiet in that department, but at least he has a 16-year track record telling us that won't be a problem when the games count for real.
-- After Beecher and Matt Poitras starred on Sunday, fellow young center Georgii Merkulov got his opportunity on Tuesday. He didn’t quite stand out to the same degree, but he did play a solid game and picked up an assist on Steen’s goal with an offensive-zone faceoff win. Merkulov had four shots on goal and seven shot attempts, and the Bruins had 62.1% of expected goals during his 11:46 of five-on-five ice time. He won seven of 16 faceoffs (44%).
-- Aside from Lohrei, the standout on defense was Ian Mitchell, who was especially active offensively. He frequently carried pucks deep into the offensive zone and even below the goal line. He had a team-high nine shot attempts, although five of them were blocked, which isn’t ideal. Still, on a night when the Bruins struggled to create enough offense, at least Mitchell was trying to make things happen.
“I thought that Mitchell and [Matt] Grzelcyk did a lot of good things in the offensive zone as defensemen keeping pucks alive,” Montgomery said.
Acquired from Chicago in the Taylor Hall trade, Mitchell has generally been penciled in as the eighth defenseman if the Bruins have the cap space to keep eight. He could beat out Jakub Zboril and make the team even if they only keep seven, though.
-- In goal, Kyle Keyser stopped 20 of the 22 shots he faced during his half of the game, while Michael DiPietro stopped 11 of 12 in relief. Both are clearly behind Sunday’s No. 1 star, Brandon Bussi, on the organizational depth chart.