In the playoffs, there will be nights like the Bruins’ 2-1 overtime win over Columbus Thursday. Sure, the Blue Jackets are dead last in the NHL standings, but they came to battle, sported a hot goalie, and seemed far from intimidated by the Bruins’ record or reputation.
And that is where Tyler Bertuzzi comes into the equation. Bertuzzi scored the equalizer and slipped another shot under Columbus goalie Michael Hutchinson that was disallowed because of an inadvertent whistle.
If not for Bertuzzi’s resourcefulness, there would not have been an opportunity for David Pastrnak’s overtime decider, his 53d goal of the season. No clinching of the Presidents’ Trophy. No snapping of the team record for wins in a season, nor tying the team points mark (121).
Bertuzzi converted for the second time as a Bruin, an opportunistic second-period power-play redirect from Pavel Zacha, set up by Charlie McAvoy. Bertuzzi found space between defensemen Marcus Bjork and Andrew Peeke and made the finish look easy.
“He’s really good there, he knows when to screen, when to slide off,” Bruins coach Jim Montgomery said of Bertuzzi. “He’s in those areas constantly and I think that’s why he’s going to be really important when the games get really hard to score. We’re not doing that enough as a group, getting to that blue paint.”
Weekend road trip
Next up for the Bruins is a back-to-backer, Saturday at Pittsburgh (a possible first-round postseason foe) and Sunday at St. Louis. With little left to play for in the regular season, the Bruins can look at this as a playoff preview.
“We went through it, we had the experience of when we clinched the playoffs,” Montgomery said. “We had a dip for four straight games where I think we lost three of them. So, hopefully, we’ll learn from that.”
As for a Presidents’ Trophy jinx, Montgomery said: “Presidents’ Cup teams have also won the most percentage of Stanley Cups. So I’m going to look at it that way. I’d rather be the Presidents’ Cup than second, third, fourth, or fifth — they haven’t won the Cup as much.
“I think it’s really important to look at our home record. Teams aren’t going to look forward to coming in here.”
Punching things up
The Bruins might not have been on their game against the Blue Jackets, but they were on their toes when it came to fisticuffs. Jakub Lauko mixed it up with Billy Sweezey in an attempt to spark the team.
“I just feel like we were kind of flat,” Lauko said. “I feel like it was a great opportunity to get the guys going, get the crowd going. I think we scored right after that, so I think it paid off.”
Lauko, who spent five minutes in the penalty box and 4:53 on the ice, has not added much of a scoring punch, but contributed by landing a couple of shots with his fists.
“I think this is the thing that is getting me into the lineup,” Lauko said. “Bringing energy and be the guy that can just bring the juice into the game, do all the things I’m doing, like hard on the forecheck when I try to hit people. And I will fight when it’s necessary. That’s what I do and that’s what I need to keep doing.”
Lauko’s contribution was appreciated by Patrice Bergeron.
“Definitely a great message coming from him,” Bergeron said, “wanting to give us a spark and bring us into the fight, when things were a little flat from the beginning there. You could tell on the bench it gave us some energy.”
In the second period, Bergeron absorbed a blatant cross-check from Lane Pederson, ruled a five-minute major, then reduced to a two-minute minor following a video review. This seemed a bizarre interpretation, as it determined that a five-stitch cut along Bergeron’s right ear had been self-inflicted. Trent Frederic stepped in to set the record straight, coldcocking Pederson with a right hand.
“Pretty much I think it probably should’ve been a five,” Frederic said. “And when it’s not, that’s when — that’s what’s so great about hockey, you put it in your own hands.
“I mean Bergy’s obviously Bergy. He’s special, just a great person, great teammate, and obviously there’s the hockey stuff. So you don’t like guys taking shots like that. That wasn’t really a fair one by him [Pederson] and so that’s kind of what happens in hockey.”
The fun bunch
As for setting records and preparing for the playoffs, Frederic, for one, seems prepared.
“Fun team to be a part of,” Frederic said. “It’s really cool, we’re just playing hockey. It hasn’t really settled in. I’m sure at one point when I’m older I can say I was part of this, and that will be pretty cool. But right now we’re just having fun, just playing hockey.
“If you look at teams that do well in the playoffs, they usually try to go in hot. It’s hard to turn it off and turn it on. So hopefully we can keep playing the right way, staying healthy, and get some more wins.”
Mason Lohrei signs tryout deal
Mason Lohrei, selected by the Bruins in the second round of the 2020 draft, signed an AHL amateur tryout agreement with the Providence Bruins.
Lohrei, 22, helped lead Ohio State to the NCAA tournament in 2022-23, where the Buckeyes defeated Harvard in the first round before falling to Quinnipiac last Sunday. He was named to the Bridgeport regional all-tournament team following the loss after tallying one goal and two assists, and drew praise from Quinnipiac coach Rand Pecknold.
“He’s a special player. He’s elite.” said Pecknold after the Bobcats advanced to the Frozen Four with a 4-1 win over Lohrei’s OSU squad.
“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. You can’t just be one on one.”
Lohrei was ranked first among Ohio State’s defensemen in scoring with four goals and 28 assists in 40 games, earning a second team All-Big Ten selection. As a freshman in 2021-22, the 6-foot-4-inch, 204-pound blueliner led Ohio State’s defense in scoring with four goals and 25 assists in 31 NCAA appearances.
Frank Dell'Apa can be reached at email@example.com.