OTTAWA – Sometimes having too many young guys making their first Stanley Cup playoff experience at the same time can put a team at a disadvantage, but sometimes that youthful, enthusiastic spark can bring that certain something.
In the Game 1 win for the Bruins over the Senators, the B’s had two big pieces of their future, 19-year-old Charlie McAvoy and 20-year-old David Pastrnak, bring their considerable talent to the table and give Boston’s established core group an enormous lift in a giant road playoff victory to essentially give the B’s home-ice advantage in the best-of-seven series.
McAvoy played 24-plus minutes of quality puck-moving service while finishing second on the team behind Zdeno Chara in ice time. Pastrnak led the B’s with eight shot attempts while picking up an assist on the game-winning goal late in the third period.
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They both certainly didn’t seem nervous, even if Pastrnak missed on a couple of pretty good scoring chances earlier in his first NHL playoff game, and they added a missing element to a veteran group that showed up in a big way for the first postseason contest at the Canadian Tire Centre.
Sens hit man defenseman Mark Borowiecki even took a run at McAvoy midway through the first period with a big hit in open ice, but the 6-foot-1, 210-pound D-man brushed it off and kept right on lugging pucks and snapping off pinpoint first passes.
“Those are the guys you want in the lineup, the ones that want the puck on their stick with the game on the line in big moments. The more guys like that we can grow, develop and integrate into the lineup, the better off we’re going to be. It rubs off on the older guys,” said B’s interim coach Bruce Cassidy. “Ask any veteran guy, when you see those young, youthful guys that have no fear when the puck drops it’s only going to make them more energetic. Just like the leadership of the veteran guys is going to rub off on the younger guys, the energy will rub off on the older guys. I’m sure if you ask the older players, they love having those young guys around.”
So, how much of a lift did a confident, swaggering McAvoy bring to the Bruins by stepping right in for a beaten-up B’s back end that badly needed reinforcements?
“It was impressive,” said Patrice Bergeron, who made his own Stanley Cup playoff debut as an 18-year-old rookie vs. the Montreal Canadiens, no less. “I think it’s a lot of pressure coming in as a 19-year-old, and your first game is the first game of the playoffs. It’s not easy to do, but we saw him in practice and could tell he had a lot of skills and a lot of poise, and great speed. He showed all of that in [Game 1]. He’s a great player and he’s just going to keep getting better. There’s not much more you can say than he was phenomenal.”
The one question about young players such as Pastrnak and McAvoy is consistency in these big-game situations, particularly when an opponent starts to pay a little more physical attention as the playoff series goes along. That will be the challenge for those outstanding young talents, but they showed in Game 1 they’re not going to shrink from it and the future is indeed very bright in Boston in the hands of elite, young talents.