Charlie McAvoy

With Bruins youth served, there are still plenty of lessons to be learned

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With Bruins youth served, there are still plenty of lessons to be learned

BRIGHTON, Mass – The Bruins youth movement has gone remarkably well through the first three months of the season.

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-Charlie McAvoy, just 19, is a contender for the Calder Trophy and leads all first-year players in ice time while excelling in all aspects of the game. 

-Jake DeBrusk has endured through some ups and downs in a top-six role alongside David Krejci and has played a key role in a number of Bruins wins this season while on pace for a solid 19 goals and 44 points. 

-Danton Heinen has erased the memory of his ineffectual NHL audition last season and has established himself as a third-line winger while on pace for 19 goals and 53 points as a solid 200-foot player.

-Anders Bjork is currently in a quiet period, but he’s shown enough speed and skill to be able to live up to the hype. 

-Sean Kuraly has been solid as a fourth-line center and Matt Grzelcyk is beginning to establish himself as a puck-moving defenseman capable of holding up an NHL job. 

This doesn’t even mention guys like Noel Acciari and Brandon Carlo that are still in the first few seasons of their NHL development and continue on an upward trend for the Black and Gold.   

Despite all of these positive developments, there are still going to be teaching moments and frequent lessons for the young Bruins. 

The Thursday night loss to the Washington Capitals was one of those moments with a standout youngster McAvoy getting pushed around by the big, strong Cap. Bjork finished with a season low in ice time while getting benched in the second and third periods. He may even get scratched for Saturday’s game vs. the Rangers after simply not being hard enough on the puck recently.

As the season goes along the intensity, the speed and the physicality is going to heighten around the league and a game against a big, strong, deep and dangerous team such as Washington was a good reminder of that for Boston’s rookies.

“This league has different levels as you go along. It’s tough enough for the young guys when they’re healthy, so there’s another level happening that [Anders Bjork] is going to have to catch up. I think it’s a little more physical. I think he’s getting pushed off pucks now, and you’re starting to see it against some of, you know, the men,” said Bruce Cassidy. “We knew that coming in that there’d be a time where that may or may not happen with all the young guys. We saw that with [Danton] Heinen last year. He’s kind of figured it out.

“[Against Washington] Charlie [McAvoy] had a tough time. You know, he got pushed off some pucks and beat one-on- one, so it happens to a lot of guys. That’s a good hockey club. It’s a good test for those guys to understand what it takes. You know, Grizz [Matt Grzelcyk], not so much. I thought, you know, his quickness allowed him to get in and out of spots, but that’s where Anders is right now, and he’s got to fight his way through it.”

Certainly it’s the kind of first-year learning process that every NHL player goes through, so there’s a level of patience and understanding from the veteran guys that have been there. Patrice Bergeron broke into the NHL as the youngest player in the league and knows it better than most.

“You’re going to see that during the season, especially for young guys. So I think it’s about going back to what you do best,” said Bergeron. “I think when you move your feet and you stop and start in the right position, things fall get back and fall back into place. He’s right there and the plays are going to come back to him, I think it’s part of being a professional and being a young guy and learning. I’m not worried about it.”

Clearly, the Bruins aren’t worried about it while knowing full well this would be a learning curve for the rookies, and that the rare instance where the rooks are taken to school will help the team out in the long run. 

Bruins closing in on the right chemistry to get over the hump against the top dogs

Bruins closing in on the right chemistry to get over the hump against the top dogs

BOSTON -- It has to be getting to the point where the Bruins are tired of talking about defeat at the hands of the Washington Capitals, but if it’s that bothersome then they really ought to do something about it.

The Bruins dropped their 11th straight game to the Washington Capitals with a 5-3 defeat at TD Garden on Thursday on the second night of a back-to-back after getting in from snowy Detroit in the wee hours of the morning around 3 a.m.

The Bruins outshot the Capitals by a 37-21 margin and they managed to claw away for three goals against Caps netminder Braden Holtby, who routinely shuts down the Black and Gold. But they also once again got pushed around by a bigger, stronger and deeper Capitals hockey club, and showed their youth in the most important points of the game against Washington.

It might have felt like it was encouraging for the Bruins to hit three crossbars in the loss, but the bottom line is that the B’s haven’t defeated the Capitals in any way, shape, or form since 2014. The Bruins continue to come up short against a high-powered Capitals attack and routinely choose the wrong time to loosen up and compete in an offensive shootout with Washington. The team needs to find a balance between being responsibility and agressiveness. 

“I think we’re all aware of it,” said Bruce Cassidy. “We haven’t had much success at all [against the Capitals]. They usually bring up the goaltender while the team plays well in front of him every time they play us. He’s got to be the benefactor, too. I thought [Capitals goaltender Braden Holtby] was very good for them. We needed more traffic because, because he plays so well against us in front of them, and we got a little late in the game, to get some second chances. Having said that we hit, I think, at least two or three crossbars, or posts. A couple other [shots] I thought were labeled that he made saves, and then a couple that we didn’t execute well enough in front of him."

“The first period, you know, we weren’t crisp in front of them. We had a couple opportunities, so part of that was probably due to the late arrival [coming from Detroit], but then we got going. That’s where we need to be better against him, so only the players can answer that, if they’re squeezing their sticks against him and this team. I don’t know if it’s in their heads, necessarily, at this time of year.”

Holtby has owned the Bruins for the better part of his with a career 13-2-0 record against the Bruins. A 1.81 career goals against average vs. Boston is incredible considering the amount of games they have played against one another. But this loss wasn’t about Holtby. The two teams combined for eight goals in somewhat of an offensive shootout. Washington’s goaltending was merely part of the backdrop of the Bruins once again getting pushed around versus the bigger, more talented, and experienced Caps. Young players like Charlie McAvoy, Anders Bjork, Brandon Carlo and Jake DeBrusk experiencing a bit of a rude awakening matching up against a grizzled, competitive Capitals bunch.

“At some point you definitely want to get it over with and win those games [versus the Capitals]. It’s not something necessarily that I was thinking before the game being honest with you,” said Patrice Bergeron, who scored a pair goals in defeat at the hands of the Capitals. “It was a back-to-back game. We knew it was a challenge and we had to be good and be smart. A few breakdowns and a little lack of discipline made us pay is the bottom line.”

In the past it’s been total men versus boys when the Bruins suited up against the Capitals in the entertaining rivalry. The one-sided results left the Bruins and their fans exasperated. This time around it was clear that the Bruins have closed some of the gaps separating them from the big Capitals bully in the Eastern Conference neighborhood, but none of it matters until they put up some points against them.

The Bruins need productive yet responsible offense play, stifling defense and lights out goaltending. If they can put it all these elements together the Bruins will show that they have closed the gap between themselves and the Capitals. They’re not there yet, but tonight was proof that they might be closing in on the right chemistry to bring home a victory. Once they get over this hump, the Bruins won’t have anthing to fear playing the Caps anymore.

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Caps have the Bruins number, win 11th straight against Boston

Caps have the Bruins number, win 11th straight against Boston

BOSTON – The Bruins didn’t play badly against the Washington Capitals on Thursday night, but they certainly didn’t play well enough to beat the bully on their block.

The B's dropped a 5-3 decision to the Capitals for their 11th straight defeat, and haven’t won a game against Washington since March of 2014.

Washington scored first and never trailed in the game after a first period goal by Jakub Vrana. The Caps forward rushed in from the neutral zone and caught the Bruins out of sorts defensively. Vrana walked right around Matt Grzelcyk, and then beat Anton Khudobin with a slick move to capture the lead.

The Bruins tied it up on a power play strike from Patrice Bergeron in the second period, but then lost ground during a Washington powerplay. Nicklas Backstrom redirected a Evgeny Kuznetsov pass from the point to re-take the lead for the Capitals, and then they continued to build on that advantage in the third period.

Alex Chiasson followed his own shot beating Brandon Carlo in a physical battle in front of the net, and pushed the rebound past Khudobin for the insurance marker. Chiasson then doubled his pleasure and doubled his fun by scoring a second goal when he blocked a Torey Krug shot on the penalty kill. He skated home free down the ice and buried a breakaway bid. The B’s closed it back to two goals in the final minutes of the third when David Krejci redirected a Charlie McAvoy attempt from the point.

Alex Ovechkin cleared the puck on the next shift, banking it off the boards. Krejci looked like he was trying to sell an icing but the puck unexpectedly banked directly into the net. It looked like it was the final strike of the game, but Bergeron would add another seconds later. It was too late though, and Washington captured their 11th straight victory against the Bruins by a score of 5-3.

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