Bruins

Charlie McAvoy was not perfect, but definitely thrilled to be back

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USA TODAY Sports Photo

Charlie McAvoy was not perfect, but definitely thrilled to be back

BOSTON – It wasn’t a perfect return to the lineup for rookie defenseman Charlie McAvoy, but the 20-year-old was just happy to be healthy and back in the swing of things after missing four games following a heart procedure to deal with an abnormal heart rhythm. McAvoy returned slightly ahead of the two week timetable initially set out for him, and skated a shade under 19 minutes of ice time for the Bruins in a dominant 4-1 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs at TD Garden.

It wasn’t a highly eventful night for McAvoy as he finished without any shots on net, points or registered hits, but he was just understandably happy to be in the saddle with the Black and Gold.

“You know, you want to see where you’re at physically, and mentally when you don’t play in a couple games. You miss out and you want to come back and get back into it and the game speed, and decision making,” said McAvoy. “Overall it was a good game and when you come out on top against a division rival like that it is awesome. We’re really happy in here.

MORE BRUINS: Zdeno Chara: fantastic at forty

“I think there was more good than bad. Coming back is never easy when you want to get right back into game speed and start making plays and [do] the stuff you were doing before. That will come and that’s fine. There were glimpses of that tonight where I’m coming back and making these plays, and they’re going to continue to come. So I feel good.”

Clearly McAvoy was a little rusty reading the play, reacting to pressure and engaging in the battle in the key areas on the ice, and it showed in the first period when a Mitch Marner point shot bounced off his stick and into the net for Toronto’s only goal in the game. It was a case of bad luck for the talented rookie, and goalie Tuukka Rask was quick to show as much when he gave McAvoy a quick after the Leafs scoring play went down. 

MORE BRUINS: Bruins shutdown the Leafs in 4-1 win

The actual goal probably could have happened to anybody in a wrong place/wrong time kind of scenario, but McAvoy did appear a little more tentative and conservative with the puck than he is when fully in the flow of things.

“I knew it was going to be a little rust, simply because you miss time and then why you missed the time, and then we didn’t have team practices so he couldn’t get acclimated to the banging and the confrontation part of it,” said Cassidy. “You can skate all you want, but until you get in there and jostle a little bit, it’s tough, so he got that under his belt.

MORE BRUINS: Teflon Tuukka

‘I’m sure it’ll get better as it goes along. He still gave us some quality minutes, made good plays, but you could tell obviously that he had been out a little while. Obviously, the other guys picked him up when they needed to, but still made his plays, and was a good player for us.”

With the first game out of the way and everything on the up and up with McAvoy, the sky is now the limit for the young defenseman as he gets stronger, faster and savvier now that the 20-year-old is again armed with a clean bill of health.

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Morning Skate: Yes, Kessel values Cups more than scoring titles

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File photo

Morning Skate: Yes, Kessel values Cups more than scoring titles

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading, while shaking my head at the disparity in talent levels between Ilya Kovalchuk and anybody on Team USA...no offense to the guys we sent over there.

*Phil Kessel said he values winning Stanley Cups over scoring titles, but does he value them more than hot dogs from his favorite food stand in Toronto? That is the question.

*Here’s a fine tribute from FOH (Friend of Haggs) Steve Conroy about his late partner at the Boston Herald, columnist/hockey writer Steve Harris, who sadly passed away a couple of days ago while still manning the beat until the past week or so. It’s still such a shocking loss for everybody in the local hockey community, and this piece does a good job of capturing his spirit.

*So, controversial Ottawa Senators owner Eugene Melnyk is going to now also be the CEO of the team as well? Yikes.

*Damien Cox takes a look at the Canadian NHL teams that look like they’re going to fall short of the playoffs and what they need to do to right their respective ships.

*The Nashville Predators explain how they are “all in” at the NHL trade deadline with another clear shot at a Cup run.

*For something completely different: A ranking of the Marvel Cinematic Universe movies from worst to best that suffers from recent-itis where a number of movies just released are probably given way, way too much deference even though they are good superhero flicks.

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Bruins look for another turning point with rugged trip ahead

Bruins look for another turning point with rugged trip ahead

When the Bruins take the ice against the Vancouver Canucks on Saturday night deep in the outer reaches of Western Canada, there will be a couple of things at play. One will be the start of a long sprint to the end of the regular season with 27 games in a scant 52 days with no more long breaks to catch their collective breath.

The worst of the worst will be 16 games in March, which could be the thing that ultimately knocks the Black and Gold down a peg after they’ve managed to play through everything else this season.

Trailing the Tampa Bay Lightning by just a couple of points for the NHL’s top spot, the Bruins know the schedule itself will be one of their biggest challenges of the season.

“We’re certainly aware of our schedule the rest of the way, and we know that it’s going to be a challenge. There aren’t too many more days off and we’re pretty much playing every other day,” said Patrice Bergeron. “So some of it will be about getting the proper rest and making sure we’re doing everything to be ready to play. But this has also been a group that’s done a really good job of handling other things that have been thrown at us whether it’s injuries or something else. This is just another challenge to take on.”

But the other, smaller picture is of the five-game trip through Canada with a final stop in Buffalo next Sunday. The Bruins will play those five games in ten days in their longest trip of the regular season. They hope to conjure up some of the same mojo that kicked off their three-month winning binge way back in mid-November. It was then that the Bruins righted the ship on a trip through California and won games in Los Angeles and San Jose that kicked off a four-game winning streak that helped change the season.

The Bruins are much more comfortable now with a giant cushion for a playoff spot and a legitimate chance to overtake the Lightning, but Bruce Cassidy is hoping to see the same kind of hunger in this particular long stretch away from home.

“This is much more about what we are and what we look like, but having said that the [California trip] was the beginning of us [turning things around]. It had us gutting out some wins in typically tough places to play like L.A. and San Jose. [Anton] Khudobin was in net and we were relying on some call-up guys, but that was really when our D-corps really stiffened up,” said Cassidy. “It kind of got us back to our heads above water, and from there we kind of took off. But now this is a different group in a different position, and we’re pushing to be in a different position.

“I think you can say Tuukka [Rask] won us all these games or [Brad] Marchand or [Patrice] Bergeron. Our best players have been our best players, but our support players have been very good, especially on those nights when we’ve needed to lean on them a little more when they’ve able to shut down [the Bergeron Line]. I think our support players deserve a lot of credit for that.”

The Bruins clearly hope this mammoth trip can be another seasonal turning point that pushes them in a direction toward a strong, decisive finish to the marathon of a regular season.

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