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.
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“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.
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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.
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‘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.