BRIGHTON, Mass – Clearly there are a couple of Bruins players in the first round series that aren’t quite playing like themselves.
Patrice Bergeron is definitely one of them after returning from missing Game 4 with an upper body injury, and it would seem that the injury is still affecting him even though he’s still been a pretty decent version of himself. Another of those players is 20-year-old Charlie McAvoy, who simply isn’t the same player he was for long stretches of this regular season or last spring’s playoffs when he averaged 26 plus minutes per game for the Bruins.
McAvoy has just a single assist along with a plus-2 rating and five shots on net in the six games against the Leafs, and it’s clear at times that he’s struggled to move the puck with the same confidence and assertiveness that he did during the regular season. The lethal first passes to kick start offense haven’t been there and the willingness to carry the puck on his own hasn’t been much of a factor either as he’s quickly getting the puck off his stick.
That’s not like McAvoy at all, and his coach admitted as much on the day leading up to the winner-take-all Game 7.
“I can’t sit here and say physically that he’s impeded right now,” said Bruce Cassidy. “I believe that coming into a playoff series after having not played, you’re playing a little bit of catch-up and he’s still doing that. I don’t think he’s playing with as much confidence as he did last year, obviously, and we have to get him back to that place. He’s a young guy and it doesn’t happen overnight, but sometimes the best message for those young guys is to simplify it, make the easy play and don’t try to do too much.”
McAvoy has insisted, however, that there aren’t any health issues with his left knee after returning from the sprained MCL. Instead McAvoy said he couldn’t get up to speed in the handful of games he played after returning from injury, and the Stanley Cup playoffs is not one of those times when a rookie is going to be able to play catch-up.
I feel good. That’s the thing. I feel good and I need to just continue to play simple hockey, get my feet moving and do the things that I can to help us come out on top. There are ups and downs, and I knew it was going to be like that coming back [from an injury]. There are times of frustration, and times where you want to make more of an impact. You want to make the plays you were making before you got hurt,” said McAvoy. “But there’s no sense in having that mindset. Medically I’m cleared and I’m good to go, and I want to impact this team. I want to do everything I can to help us win this [Game 7].
“This whole series I’ve been trying to play my best hockey and there have been ups and downs. There have been good moments and there’s been bad moments. I thought I was getting my legs going in [Game 6] and starting to move the puck well, and being more decisive. Those are the little things I do so well, but it’s been a battle trying to find my game after coming back and just getting a couple of regular season games. I know these guys have my back, they always do and they always will.”
If McAvoy is indeed healthy and simply looking to find the range with his confidence and puck-moving game, then tapping into it for a big Game 7 performance would be exactly what the doctor ordered for the Black and Gold.