Bruins

McAvoy 'starting to feel good' for the B's as he notches first point post-surgery

McAvoy 'starting to feel good' for the B's as he notches first point post-surgery

BOSTON – It was the kind of play that Charlie McAvoy made routinely in the first half of the season, and it was a welcomed sight on Tuesday night as it helped set up the game-tying goal in the second period.

The 20-year-old picked up an assist on Boston’s second goal of the game in an eventual 5-2 win over the Calgary Flames, and it was clearly significant for its time and place in the game.

But it was also about McAvoy snapping a six-game scoreless stretch with his first point since Jan. 20, and securing his first point since undergoing a much-discussed heart ablation procedure at the end of January. On the play McAvoy intercepted a TJ Brodie clearing attempt at the neutral zone, and simply carried the puck straight to the net before drawing defenders and then creating passing lanes for himself and Tim Schaller to set up Riley Nash’s second score of the game.

McAvoy admitted it’s been a process regaining his game at full speed while jumping on the NHL regular season train at midstream, but it certainly looks like things are again falling into place for the brilliant rookie D-man.

“I don’t want to say you lose a step, but whenever you’re not playing and you come back you kind of have to re-adjust yourself so you can get to where you feel like you left off. Especially when you leave

off on a good note and you come back and right away you want to pick up where you left off…it’s easier said than done,” said McAvoy. “Guys come back from injuries every day in this league and, you know, it’s definitely hard to get back in to that game pace.

“So I’m continuing to feel better and starting to feel good. I’m just going to continue to ride it, keep getting better every day, keep staying up, staying energized and just keep playing good.”

McAvoy finished with the aforementioned assist and a game-best plus-3 in his 18:27 of ice time, fared very well under the fast and physical Calgary attack and feels like he’s pretty much back to normal at this point. He’s been back with one point and a plus-5 rating in six games since coming back from the procedure, and has topped 20 minutes in three of those six games for an impressive show of endurance since making his return.

“That’s just composure, smarts and then the ability to see the ice once you get over the blue line and force their ‘D’ to commit away from the net, and all of a sudden, we finished. Well, too, obviously, [Tim] Schaller making the play to Nash,” said Bruce Cassidy. ‘Then, moving pucks up ice, and he had to be hard against good players again tonight, too.

“That’s essentially what we asked our group to be after the first period; let’s just play hard, get back to competing harder, winning pucks, getting there first. If you’re not getting their first, arrive ornery, and I thought we did a good job with that.”

McAvoy continues to work hard and make an impact as a game-changing rookie on the back end for the Bruins, and the good news is that Tuesday night’s big offensive flash is a harbinger of good things to come for the Black and Gold.  

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE

Bruins wary of negatively impacting "very good chemistry" at trade deadline

Bruins wary of negatively impacting "very good chemistry" at trade deadline

TORONTO – It doesn’t take much searching on the Google machine to uncover noteworthy accomplishments from the Bruins this season. 

The Bruins are top-five in the NHL in offense, defense and penalty kill, and they have gone an amazing 31-6-4 since the middle of November while storming to the very top of the NHL standings. Along the way they’ve overcome injuries, tough losses bad starts, one lengthy Brad Marchand suspension and a fan base that was only half paying attention until the season ended anticlimactically for the New England Patriots a couple of weeks ago. 

MORE BRUINS

They also did all of this while introducing a lineup with five or six rookies in it every single night, and playing for a head coach in Bruce Cassidy in his first full year running the NHL team after 13 years between NHL gigs. They’ve been resilient and filled with fighting character all along, and they’ve overwhelmed opponents with their depth and quality of players on the vast majority of nights. 

They’re an entertaining and fun hockey club to watch, to be sure, and they are a group that sticks up for each other and genuinely likes one another while also sitting mere points behind the top dog Tampa Bay Lightning. That was all evident when the entire team enjoyed a night out together in Toronto on Wednesday, and wound up using the team-wide get-together as quality content for their Instagram accounts. 

Long story short, the Bruins have been extremely good this season on a consistent basis and look primed for an intriguing run into the postseason as the NHL trade deadline beckons. 

With all that in mind, it’s a delicate balance for Bruins management between making necessary roster improvements and not upsetting a tangle team chemistry that’s been notably special this season. The always candid Cassidy admitted as much when asked that question while meeting with reporters at the Bruins team hotel on Thursday morning. 

“I think it’s been factored into conversations between me and Donny [Sweeney] that we have a group with some real togetherness there this season,” said Cassidy. “At the end of the day if you can add and make your team better then you always have to look at it, and Donny is looking at that right now. 

“Adding [Nick] Holden I think he’s done that and we’ve added some more depth. But after that I do worry about if we subtract somebody from the room. If you’re adding and you’re not subtracting, i.e. future assets, then as a coach you always prefer to go that way. But Donnie will do what’s best and as a coaching staff we’ll take it from there so to speak. But there is a good chemistry with that group…a very good chemistry in that locker room.”

MORE BRUINS

Translation: There's a real concern that trading away a young NHL roster player like Jake DeBrusk, Danton Heinen or Brandon Carlo could be altering the team's DNA a little too boldly. 

This is the factor to keep in mind chasing after rental wingers like Michael Grabner, Thomas Vanek and Patrick Maroon that are unlikely to cost more than a “B” prospect or reasonable draft pick in exchange for them. It’s expected that the Bruins would need to give up at least one young NHL asset, possibly two in a true blockbuster for a player with term, if they chased after bigger ticket targets like Rick Nash or Ryan McDonagh with the Rangers.

Certainly there might be some level of impatience that the Bruins should go for broke at the deadline based on the promise this group has shown this season. Perhaps some are worried the window is starting to close for some of their veteran core players, but the numbers say otherwise with players like Zdeno Chara, Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand all enjoying vintage seasons. This isn’t a 2011 “Go for the Cup” type situation this season with the Bruins where they were primed and ready for a lengthy playoff run, and deals for Rich Peverley, Chris Kelly and Tomas Kaberle helped put them over the top. 

This year’s group is much more reminiscent of the 2008-09 Bruins that blew away expectations with a strong regular season, and enjoyed breakout performances from a number of younger players that saw them soar high above expectations. The youth and inexperience caught up to the Bruins that season when they were eliminated in the second round during a rugged seven game series with the Carolina Hurricanes, but the experience helped grow them into a contender on a steady trajectory over the next three seasons. 

That’s where the Bruins are this season. 

They’re a pleasant surprise team with a group of talented youngsters helping to push them to a higher level, and they’re due for a learning experience down the stretch and into the postseason. That isn’t likely to develop into an extended two-month Cup run unless a lot goes tremendously right for the Black and Gold, but the experience will pay dividends for next season and beyond. 

It might be that there’s just one more player for the Bruins to add ahead of Monday’s deadline, and that it will be more “sensible roster addition” than “take-your-breath-away blockbuster.” But that’s really okay when it comes to the Black and Gold.

MORE ON NBCSPORTSBOSTON.COM

It’s okay because it means Don Sweeney hasn’t attempted pulling the roster apart at any of the seams, and will instead roll with his chemistry-filled Bruins regular season juggernaut to see exactly how good they stack up to be in the postseason. They’ve certainly earned that right after kicking the tar out of the rest of the NHL for the last three plus months, and it’s starting to feel like they’re going to get it.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE

Bruins' Bjork out for season after undergoing shoulder surgery

bruins_anders_bjork_092517.jpg
File photo

Bruins' Bjork out for season after undergoing shoulder surgery

TORONTO -- Anders Bjork's up-and-down rookie season has come to an end, as the Bruins' left wing underwent left shoulder surgery this week that’s expected to keep him sidelined for the next six months. 

Bjork was knocked out of a Jan. 30 loss to the Anaheim Ducks when Francois Beauchemin caught him with a cross-check to the left arm, but it’s unclear whether he was already playing through some level of shoulder injury prior to that collision. According to the B’s release, the 21-year-old winger “underwent successful left shoulder arthroscopy and labral repair on Tuesday” at Mass General Hospital. Bjork had been spotted around the Garden in recent weeks wearing his left arm in a sling, but it was difficult to guess the severity of the injury based on what looked like a fairly run-of-the-mill hit from Beauchemin. 

The injury and season-ending surgery ends a bit of a lost year for Bjork, who cracked the Opening Night roster and finished with 4r goals and 12 points in 30 games.

He showed the speed and skill required to be a top-6 forward at the NHL level, but also appeared to need more development time when it comes to battle level and adjusting to the physicality level in the pro game. The former Notre Dame star never seemed to fully bounce back from getting steamrolled in the neutral zone by Matt Martin in the middle of November, and ended up spending time in Providence as well prior to his season-ending injury. 

Bjork’s injury certainly doesn’t rule him out completely as a trade asset ahead of Monday afternoon’s trade deadline, but it probably makes him less attractive to NHL teams looking for young, NHL-ready talent that can step into their lineups right now. With Bjork headed for the long-term injured list and Frank Vatrano traded to the Florida Panthers for a third-round pick, that certainly opens the door for both a) a deal to bring on a veteran rental winger ahead of the trade deadline and B) a spot to be opened up in the Bruins organization for Ryan Donato when the Harvard University star, currently at the Olympics, is ready to sign.

Those are both very good things despite the downer news about Bjork, who watched fellow rookies Jake DeBrusk and Danton Heinen live up to the expectations many had for him.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE