Bruins

McAvoy comes away with a few lessons from Caps

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McAvoy comes away with a few lessons from Caps

BOSTON – Just about every game in his first NHL season is going to be a lesson of some kind for 19-year-old Charlie McAvoy and he got a healthy teachable moment in his first meeting with the big, strong and skilled Washington Capitals.

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A game after throwing seven hits against the Vegas Golden Knights, it was McAvoy who was on the receiving end of some physicality from hard-edged guys Tom Wilson and Alex Ovechkin in the Bruins' 3-2 loss Saturday night at TD Garden.

The low point was probably when McAvoy was on the ice with the rest of his teammates while allowing a giant seam in the middle of the defense where Evgeny Kuznetsov was able to slide a cross-ice dish to Ovechkin for a one-timer from his spot at the left face-off dot for his 11th goal of the season.

That goal put the Bruins down by a couple of goals and forced them into the uphill climb that they couldn’t overcome. It was one of two goals that the rookie was on the ice for against the Capitals and it provided a lesson learned. 

“Getting the opportunity playing with Zee [Zdeno Chara] to play against top lines, top players in the league every night, I’m thankful for it. I think it raises my level; I think my compete level has to go up and it does,” said McAvoy, who leads all NHL rookies with 22:47 of ice time but is also a minus-3. “You know, kind of trying to use your body position for a guy like [Ovechkin] – there were a couple times where he used his, and you know, it’s tough to adjust to that. But it’s a learning curve and he’s a phenomenal player and you try to contain a guy like that. You just do the best you can.”

But in another sign of just good an NHL defenseman that McAvoy is going to become, he did something about it after figuratively getting punched in the mouth by the bullying Capitals early in the game. McAvoy dropped Liam O’Brien with a big hit in the neutral zone in the second period and he went on to play 24:03 pretty solid minutes of aggravated, motivated hockey.  

“He gets tough matchups every night and Brandon Carlo went through it last year, playing against [Evgeny] Kuznetsov, [Alex] Ovechkin, [Tom] Wilson, [T.J.] Oshie – like, they’ve got some big bodies,” said coach Bruce Cassidy. “So, I thought he got better. He got upset, pissed off, after the first period. He got bumped off the puck and you see he came with a little more aggression all over the ice in one-on-one battles.

“Now, he had a shot block that came back at us, so it got compounded a little bit there, but I don’t have a lot of issues with Charlie. He figures it out in a hurry and he’s a good player for, and this is just another one of those little ones he’ll put in his compartment and learn from, and be better.”

There will be nights like Saturday when the lessons can get a little rough for McAvoy, but the good news is that he shows pretty quickly what he’s learned and is able to put it right back into his game as he did vs. the Caps.  
 

DeBrusk providing an offensive spark for Bruins since scratch

DeBrusk providing an offensive spark for Bruins since scratch

BOSTON – Give Bruins rookie Jake DeBrusk credit.

The 21-year-old rookie said that he didn’t want to go through the experience of being a healthy scratch again, and he has played like it ever since.

DeBrusk finished with a pair of assists in the Bruins 4-3 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins, and is now riding a four-game point streak with two goals and five points in his last four games. He came up with the primary assist on Boston’s first goal when he fed David Krejci all alone cutting to the net, and then again fed Krejci in the slot on the play where the puck found Matt Grzelcyk for his first career NHL goal in the second period.

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In all DeBrusk finished with the two points in 18:46 of ice time, and had good skating legs while collecting four shots on net and a couple of hits in stringing together another solid game as a first-year player.

“It goes back to the mentality of playing fast. I think that was one of the focuses. And ever since I got scratched, I think that I’ve had some jump in all the games or at moments. I think that level of confidence and I’m also playing with great players,” said DeBrusk. “They open up a lot of space for me. And on that example, [David] Krejci’s goal, I’ve seen him do that 100 times. It’s nice to get a reward and it’s nice to get on the board, especially twice, in a game like this. I thought that we were coming along and we’re just looking to build on it.”

DeBrusk is currently on a pace for 20 goals and 48 points while battling through the natural highs and lows of being a rookie at the NHL level. The first-year winger hasn’t yet mastered the consistency component quite yet as a young player making his way through the league, but there’s little doubt DeBrusk will keep getting the chance to find that level while producing offense with his passing, skating and shooting in a key top-6 spot.

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Bruins 'feeling pretty good' riding a four-game win streak

Bruins 'feeling pretty good' riding a four-game win streak

BOSTON – It was hard to imagine this could have been possible a couple of weeks ago when injuries were ripping through the roster amid a very challenging stretch of hockey, but the Bruins have managed to survive and thrive within the adversity. With several regulars still missing from the fold including leading scorer Brad Marchand, the Bruins won their fourth game in a row taking a strong 4-3 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins.

The win allowed the Bruins to push into the third spot in the Atlantic Division and lay claim to one of the playoff spots on the day after Thanksgiving, a milestone that usually portends good things for hockey clubs sitting in that position.

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Given the winning streak and Boston’s ability to get busy living rather than getting busy dying amid the trying stretch, confidence is at the high mark just a couple of months into the regular season.

“I still think that collectively as a group, there are still things that we need to build on. But obviously, we can’t complain with four straight wins,” said Jake DeBrusk, who has two goals, five points and a plus-4 in the four-game winning streak. “It’s our first win streak of the season and everyone’s feeling pretty good right now. We’re doing everything we can to keep things going.”

There have been different components to the four-game streak that have made it possible. Young players like Jake DeBrusk, Danton Heinen and Charlie McAvoy have stepped up and brandished their offensive skills while making things happen for a team missing some of their offensive playmakers, and the energy has been contagious. The Bruins have learned how to become closers in the third period where they’re squeezing the life out of opponents rather than giving them hope for stealing the game.

Anton Khudobin has ripped off win after win after win after win, and has made all the important stops to ensure that the Bruins take points out of each and every game. His .944 save percentage over the winning streak is exactly the level of goaltending needed for the Bruins to execute their game plan, and it’s why they have played with a lead for all but a couple of minutes in those wins over Los Angeles, San Jose, New Jersey and Pittsburgh.

The quick starts have allowed the Bruins to play with the kind of controlled aggression that brings out their best and quit chasing the game while closing things down in the final 20 minutes. It’s much closer to the way things were drawn up by the coaching staff prior to the start of the season before their personnel group was ripped apart by injuries. Friday’s performance was what Bruce Cassidy is looking for from his young, excitable Bruins team on a big stage against a high quality Eastern Conference opponent.

“I mentioned [the magnitude of Friday] before the game, because I think it’s exciting. You’re on NBC, you’re playing against the Stanley Cup Champions, and everyone is watching. . . let’s put our best foot forward. I know it’s one of 82, but it’s a bigger one of 82 the way I look at it,” said Cassidy. “I think they felt the same way coming out [of the starting gate]. Now, I also think with a young group you’re always a little more juiced up at home; they’re still in that stage of their career. So, I think that explained a lot of their start, and why we were better early on.”

So now the beat goes on for the Bruins amid their best stretch of hockey this season at a very opportune time. Perhaps now the B’s start wondering just how good they can be once they finally get their full lineup together for the first time during this entire hockey season. 

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