FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – Charlie McAvoy knows what it’s like to burst onto the scene in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

That’s exactly what he did in 2017 when he made his NHL debut during the Bruins’ first-round series against the Ottawa Senators. He’s been a top-pairing staple and one of the league’s best defensemen ever since.

And while his current defense partner, Mason Lohrei, played 41 games during the 2023-24 regular season with plenty of success, it’s his performance so far in this postseason that is opening eyes.

“It looks like he’s finding his stride as we go,” McAvoy said from the Bruins’ team hotel during an off-day media session on Tuesday morning. “I know that he’s a confident kid, but he’s shown maturity playing in the playoffs. Some of the situations that he’s been in.

“He’s really thrived and flourished, and I think now you’re seeing he’s starting to feel a little more comfortable and he can make special plays like he did a couple times [Monday] night. Just want to keep encouraging him and supporting him in whatever way we can. Look forward to him growing.”

One of those special plays in Game 1 was Lohrei’s sensational snipe in the second period to give the Bruins a 2-1 lead with 3:43 left in the frame. The rookie pinched down the left wall and found himself at the bottom of the circle where he took a feed from Parker Wotherspoon and rocketed a wrister over the right shoulder of Florida goalie Sergei Bobrovsky and under the crossbar for his first career postseason goal and the eventual game-winner.

“His poise with the puck and willingness to hang onto it to find a better play is amazing,” said coach Jim Montgomery. “The goal he scored and before when he hit the post, that shift, it gives confidence to the team. But his ability to do that in big moments, some players have that like [David Pastrnak] has it, where you think, ‘why isn’t he shooting?’

“Well, he’s waiting for the five-hole to open or something. He has that ability as a defenseman to make that kind of play. Just like CMac does a lot of times, holds the puck, holds the puck, and all of a sudden, he goes across the seam for an empty tap-in. His ability there is something that gives our team another dynamic to us.”

Lohrei became the fourth Bruins rookie defenseman to score in the postseason in the past decade, joining Connor Clifton, McAvoy, and Torey Krug. He also became the fourth Boston rookie blue liner to notch a game-winning goal in the playoffs, along with Clifton (Game 2, 2019 Eastern Conference Final), Bruce Shoebottom (Game 2, 1988 Division Semifinal), and Mike Milbury (Game 3, 1977 Stanley Cup Final).

“The sky’s the limit for him,” said McAvoy. “He’s got an extremely high ceiling. His potential is off the charts. I try and help him whenever I can like I do for every guy and like they do for me. But yeah, that’s all him, he’s worked really hard, and he deserves to be here. He looks like he’s flourishing now and getting more comfortable. The plays that he’s making are great and we want to continue to encourage him to make those plays.”

McAvoy talks with the media on an off day

Brazeau on the Board

Lohrei wasn’t the only Bruins rookie to notch his first career postseason goal in Game 1 as Justin Brazeau also potted one in the third period to put Boston ahead, 4-1, at 7:13 of the third. The hulking winger broke in on a 2-on-1 with Trent Frederic after taking a chip pass from James van Riemsdyk in the neutral zone.

Brazeau then cut to the middle of the slot and dangled around Bobrovsky before depositing a backhander to extend the Bruins’ lead.

“The plays we’re seeing, he made in Game 7 and tonight, is what we were seeing that in the regular season,” said Montgomery. “And that’s why I put him in in Game 5 because he needed to get in a rhythm. We’re playing him because we believe he’s an excellent hockey player that can really help you, offensively and defensively. That’s why what you’re noticing there is something that we think is part of him.”

After suffering an upper-body injury on April 2 in Nashville, Brazeau missed roughly four weeks before re-entering the lineup for Game 5 against Toronto. He has steadily improved in each game since.

“I feel really good. I felt good in Game 5, it’s just one of those things with the timing and stuff, you just got to get that back,” said Brazeau. “It’s just getting my feet wet in the playoffs, it’s my first couple games. I like the way I came out in Game 7 and I just wanted to carry that over.

“Regular season is one thing, playoffs is completely different. To be out for three, four weeks and then get thrown right in like that, it kind of comes at you quick. It was picking up on the pace and settling in.”

Brazeau acknowledged that it’s hard to believe how far he’s come since inking an AHL deal with Providence over the summer.

"I don’t know. I always had the belief that I could be here and do this type of stuff,” said Brazeau, who signed his entry-level deal with Boston in mid-February. “I wouldn’t say I had no belief in it, but it was a bit of a far-fetched coming into the year signing an AHL deal. I’m obviously extremely happy to be here.”

Brazeau scores in Game 1, Bruins win 5-1

Another Sway Spectacular

Jeremy Swayman was spectacular again in Game 1, making a playoff-career high 38 saves on 39 shots to lead Boston to victory. Per NHL Stats, he became the eighth goalie in league history to allow two or fewer goals in each of his first seven starts of a postseason.

“I got a lot of words for that guy,” said Morgan Geekie. “Just a great teammate, playing unbelievable right now. I don’t think I have enough good words to say abut him. I could say the same thing about everyone in that room. He’s been great. You see that on the ice. And on top of that, he’s a great teammate and cares about everybody in that room. I think that’s something special that this team brings is just the aspect of how everyone cares for each other. He’s one example of it.”

Swayman set the stone from the start of the series-opener as he denied Anton Lundell on a point-blank chance in the opening minute when he slid to make a right pad stop.

“That save in the first minute of the game…that gets jacked in our net, we’re down 1-0, the crowd’s going wild and we’re on our heels right away,” said Montgomery. “Instead, he makes that save on a tremendous second-effort play that you don’t see very often because he’s just in a zone that’s unparalleled in someone’s first seven games of the playoffs…it gives you confidence – that’s what he does, he raises the confidence of the team.”

While the backstop certainly does not lack confidence, Swayman carries himself modestly around the rink, which has endeared him to his teammates.

“His confidence, his self-confidence, his belief, in how good he is…it’s a characteristic that some of the best players have is that confidence – they know how good they are,” said McAvoy. “And that’s Sway. He carries himself in a humble manner, which is appreciated. But he knows how good he is and he works really hard at it.

“To see him playing the way he’s playing and helping us a lot back up in these results that we’re getting. It’s not really a surprise for us. We have a lot of confidence in him and Linus as well.”

When it comes to Ullmark, who has suited up for just one game this postseason – Game 2 against Toronto – Montgomery said that while the team considered playing him in Game 1 on Monday night, they ultimately decided that Swayman is playing too well to make a change.

“We talked about it as a staff,” said Montgomery. “Because of the emotional high of Games 7 and the travel, we contemplated going with Ullmark because we have so much confidence in him too but when a guy is playing that well, it’s like don’t outsmart yourself.”

Montgomery added that both goalies are staying in top shape with the help of the Bruins’ sports performance staff.

“We have a sports science department that gives us feedback on where people are at,” said Montgomery. “Keeping Linus sharp with the amount of practicing and shooting that they’re getting, specifically on days like today where the whole team isn’t practicing, keeps him sharp. I think the emotion of the Stanley Cup Playoffs keeps him sharp and then we’re weighing where Sway is.

“Sway’s a tremendous athlete. He’s a little bit of a freak of an athlete. We don’t worry too much about him breaking down, but it is the emotion of the playoffs that we weigh as well.”

Swayman talks after Bruins beat Panthers in Game 1

Wait, There’s More

  • Derek Forbort returned to the lineup for Game 1, suiting up for the first time since March 2 after undergoing multiple surgeries that sidelined him for roughly two months. He was a plus-2 in 18:13 of ice time. “Forbort looked really confident, he was moving really well,” said Montgomery. “The best we’ve seen him move probably since before his leg injury last January. That was a pleasant surprise and really happy for the young man because he’s worked really hard to get back to wear the Spoked-B and help us in this playoff run.”
  • Patrick Brown was also back in the Spoked-B for the first time since Jan. 27 after being recalled from Providence on an emergency basis on Sunday. The veteran forward centered the fourth line between Johnny Beecher and Pat Maroon, compiling 8:27 of ice time. “Brown was good. He fits our identity of being physical and being hard. He did his job,” said Montgomery.
  • With the Panthers smothering the Bruins early in the third period of Game 1, Montgomery opted to call a timeout to settle down his group. The move worked swimmingly as Brazeau scored just moments later to put Boston up, 4-1, and essentially put the game on ice. “I think he did a fantastic job recognizing how the momentum was going,” said Carlo. “There’s gonna be a lot of those pushes, they’re a great team, offensively, defensively, they’re gonna make plays. I think at the right time, he made that timeout, told us to stay composed, calm down a little bit, and that was huge for us. He believes in us a lot and at times it’s just about hearing it and then believing in ourselves and going out there and doing it. I think that was the right call, for sure.”
  • The Bruins penalty kill was 3 for 3 in Game 1 and is now 23 for 24 through eight games this postseason. “I think we’ve always had a good penalty kill here in Boston, [assistant coach] Joe [Sacco] does an outstanding job with it,” said McAvoy. “We take a lot of pride in it. I think there were times this year where it wasn’t as good as we want it to be. But we didn’t really change much. I think we believed in our structure, our overall principles and we’ve seen it come back and give us success now. That’s something that we need to continue to do, play disciplined, play fast, when we get on the kill and make sure we’re working in unison.”

Montgomery updates the media after Game 1