After the shorthanded Bruins took down the Hurricanes in a Sunday shootout, Joe Sacco might have had the widest grin of anyone streaming off the visiting bench.
The assistant coach had a hunch, and saw it play out.
“Joe Sacco was saying that I was going to get the winner throughout the game,” Jake DeBrusk said. “In the third period, and it went to overtime. He’s like, ‘You’re going to get the winner.’ It went to a shootout and he was like, ‘You’re going to get the winner,’ and he gave me a tap and started laughing about it.”
Charlie Coyle snapped one five-hole on Frederik Andersen. Jeremy Swayman stayed with Teuvo Teravainen’s tricky attempt. Then DeBrusk rose from his seat in front of Sacco, hopped the boards, and gave him a wink and a smile.
“Sure enough, I went up second and I had a chance to win it,” DeBrusk said. “I just kind of looked back like, ‘Maybe you’re right.’ ”
DeBrusk improved to 8 for 22 in the shootout (36.4 percent), and has scored on 3 of 6 attempts this year. Like a baseball closer relying on his out pitch, DeBrusk typically goes upstairs on solo rushes. He varies the speed of the shot, sometimes attacking with pace and sometimes making the goalie whiff on a changeup.
Andersen knew that DeBrusk comes in fast and glides as he loads his shot, but he was guarding against DeBrusk pitching it over his blocker. Instead, DeBrusk zipped his shot over Andersen’s glove.
“It’s a coin toss, honestly,” he said of his recent success. “I remember when I was first there, my first preseason training camp, I wanted to be known as a shootout guy, because I know the Bruins struggled in shootouts before that.”
DeBrusk is correct on that point. The Bruins have been arguably the worst shootout team in the league since it was introduced, scoring on 25.9 percent of their attempts. Only newcomer Seattle (22.2) is worse. Since 2005-06, the Bruins have finished 21st in the league or lower in every season but three: 2006-07, when they were 15th; 2011-12, when they were third; and 2021, when they were fifth.
This year, the Bruins have scored on 5 of 13 attempts (38.5 percent), good for 11th in the league. They hold a 2-3 record in shootouts, which, of course, do not matter in the playoffs.
Eye on a prospect
Bruins general manager Don Sweeney was in Bridgeport, Conn., Sunday, watching Quinnipiac eliminate Ohio State in the second round of the NCAA tournament.
He might have been watching Mason Lohrei’s final college game.
On Monday, the 22-year-old Ohio State defenseman was deciding whether to join the Bruins on an entry-level contract or return to school for his junior year.
If he turned pro, the Bruins could assess his readiness for a postseason run, as they did in 2017 with Charlie McAvoy. Coming out of Boston University, McAvoy made an immediate impact after a brief twirl in Providence.
Considering the current injuries to Derek Forbort and Hampus Lindholm — both lefties, like Lohrei — the rookie could work into the mix in the final few weeks of the season, if he opts to sign.
Or, he could earn valuable pro experience in Providence, which lost a left-shot, offensive-minded defenseman, Mike Reilly, to injury Sunday.
The Bruins, widely viewed to be reaching when they drafted Lohrei in the second round (58th overall) in 2020, have seen him develop into a top prospect. Lohrei, 6 feet 4 inches and 210 pounds, had 8 goals and 61 points in 71 games for the Buckeyes the last two seasons, ranking sixth among NCAA defensemen in that time.
In the tournament, Lohrei paired high-level mobility (which has returned after last summer’s knee surgery) with offensive instincts and confident playmaking.
“He’s a special player,” Quinnipiac coach Rand Pecknold said after Sunday’s game, according to reporter Mark Divver. “He’s elite. He should probably be in the NHL right now and probably will be in about a day or two, is my guess.”
Pecknold said his team tried to make Lohrei play defense and keep him from attacking with the puck. It was one of the reasons they won.
“A player of that stature and that caliber — going back to when Cale Makar played at UMass and we played them all the time — you’ve got to defend guys like that in layers,” Pecknold said. “You can’t just be one on one. I thought we did a good job with that tonight.”
Coming out of Carolina, Bruins coach Jim Montgomery was hopeful that two days of rest would allow Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand, and Lindholm to return to the lineup Tuesday against Nashville … The Predators (36-28-8) have lost two in a row but entered Monday 5 points out of wild-card position in the West. Offense has been the issue for the Predators, who rank 27th in goals per game (2.76). Their leading scorer, defenseman Roman Josi (18-41—59), ranks T-72nd in the league.