The Boston Bruins entered last postseason with too many quality defenseman, eventually cycling through their options as they attempted to find the six best.

Is it possible they’re even deeper this season, creating an even bigger logjam on the blue line?

Yeah, pretty much.

The B’s are trying a new third defensive pair in Tuesday’s matchup against the Ottawa Senators, as Kevin Shattenkirk and newcomer Andrew Peeke will get the nod at TD Garden. Shattenkirk sat the last two games as a healthy scratch, while Peeke is still finding his footing after being acquired at the trade deadline. Mason Lohrei and Parker Wotherspoon will draw out of the lineup, and while the latter likely has earned his place on the third unit, Lohrei, Shattenkirk and Peeke appear to be fighting for the final spot.

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They’ll all be given opportunities, and Bruins head coach Jim Montgomery’s final choice will come down to who is playing the best whenever the Stanley Cup playoff roll around.

“It’s not so much, see this guy with that guy,” Montgomery said Tuesday, per the Bruins. “We’re trying to find out the lineup that’s going to give us the best success. The experimenting is trying to find that lineup, and again, for me, I can’t say it enough. It’s you play well, you’re staying in the lineup. It’s the same way we operate in the playoffs.

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“We’re trying to get that mentality now that when you get an opportunity to be in the lineup where there’s more urgency to stay in the lineup.”

Boston essentially has three players fighting for one spot on that third pair. If Wotherspoon’s spot is less secure than we envision, make it four guys fighting for two spots.

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In 2023, Derek Forbort and Connor Clifton fought to stay on the ice. It eventually came down to each individual game to see which would play. In 2024, Wotherspoon, Peeke, Shattenkirk and Lohrei all have a shot, and while their ceilings are much lower than the individuals from last year’s group, the competition is just as fierce.

Boston eventually will have to make two decisions. Wotherspoon or Lohrei, and Shattenkirk or Peeke? Wotherspoon has the advantage over Lohrei based off how he’s been playing recently, but the latter’s ceiling is much higher. Shattenkirk has the most playoff experience of anyone in the group, but Peeke was acquired to stick around for a while.

It’s no easy decision, and could be daunting for Montgomery, but at the end of the day the Bruins feel more comfortable than they have in the past.

“It’s a healthier place for everybody,” Montgomery said. “It’s more rewarding this year, because you have to keep pushing, so you have to work harder as a staff and the players need to work hard, because we need to continue to get better here.”

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Featured image via Winslow Townson/USA TODAY Sports Images