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Murphy: Montgomery Doing The Right Thing With Poitras



Boston Bruins

Boston Bruins head coach Jim Montgomery is doing the right thing when handling rookie center Matthew Poitras’ playing time.

Ever since the 2010-11 season, Tyler Seguin’s rookie campaign with the Boston Bruins, a solid portion of Bruins fans and the media that cover the team seem to think that the development of a rookie should always be prioritized over winning. That may be true if your team is rebuilding and battling for a Top 5 pick in the next NHL Entry Draft, but not when you are a perennial Stanley Cup contender as the Boston Bruins have been since then.

Over the past week, Jim Montgomery has come under fire from the same crowd who couldn’t fathom why former Bruins head coach Claude Julien wouldn’t always play Seguin, the 2010 second 0verall pick, in more crucial situations during his rookie season, and the same crowd that railed against Julien’s successor, Bruce Cassidy, when he did the same with the likes of Ryan Spooner or Ryan Donato, and even bashed general manager Don Sweeney for trading Donato for Charlie Coyle. How’s that trade looking now? (Wink wink emoji)

For whatever reason, too many people decided and still seem to believe that highly touted prospects should take priority over winning, even though Julien’s coaching tactics led to a Stanley Cup in Seguin’s rookie season and got the Bruins to within two games of another Cup win two seasons later. Or that Cassidy’s handling of youngsters like Spooner and Donato was part of a coaching approach that took the Bruins to the Stanley Cup Playoffs in all six seasons, he coached the Bruins and to Game 7 of the 2019 Stanley Cup Final.

“Valuing in-game management is something we’ve talked to him about. It’s still lacking in his game right now,” Montgomery replied when asked why despite the Bruins being down a center, he benched the 19-year-old Poitras in the third period of his team’s 5-3 win over the Arizona Coyotes on Saturday.

“We’re paid to win hockey games. I’m going to go with the guys that I think are going to win us hockey games.”

Montgomery is absolutely correct, and here’s betting that if he had played Matt Poitras in the third period, and the Bruins lost a second-straight game, they’d be questioning how he didn’t have the team bounce back after a listless 3-1 loss to the Sabres last Thursday. Montgomery went with more experience, and he went with his horses, led by veteran center Charlie Coyle, who was an absolute beast on Saturday and had a goal, three hits, and three blocked shots in the 20:17 he played. As pointed out by my Boston Hockey Now colleague, Mick Colageo, Montgomery also elected to insert more size and physicality in the middle by switching Trent Frederic and Morgan Geekie to center for the final period.

“It’s a demanding position for us,” Montgomery said of those moves. “Especially down low. I figured we were going to spend a lot of time down low in the third period, just the way they were pressing. That’s the way it worked out.”

And it worked out well for the Bruins as a team, as they regained the top spot atop the NHL standings. That and winning the Stanley Cup will remain the priority for Montgomery, Sweeney, and team President Cam Neely until further notice. That does not mean they won’t prioritize developing Poitras or even a top prospect like Mason Lohrei, but they won’t do it regardless of how it affects winning.


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