Charlie McAvoy

NHL Highlights: Bruins finally figure out Red Wings in 4-1 win

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USA TODAY Sports

NHL Highlights: Bruins finally figure out Red Wings in 4-1 win

FINAL SCORE: Bruins 4, Red Wings 1

IN BRIEF: The Bruins regroup for four unanswered goals in the final two periods and their first victory over the lowly Red Wings with a 4-1 win in a Saturday matinee at TD Garden after they dropped two games to Detroit earlier this season. BOX SCORE 

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BRUINS RECORD: 36-11-12, 84 points (1st in Atlantic Division)

HIGHLIGHTS

DARREN HELM'S SHORT-HANDED GOAL MAKES IT 1-0 WINGS:

MCAVOY TIES IT IN 2ND:

1:39 LATER, BERGERON SHORT-HANDED GOAL GIVES B'S LEAD:

COYLE FROM MCAVOY, 3-1 B'S:

NO. 42 FOR PASTA, 50TH ASSIST FOR MARCHAND:

UP NEXT:
@ New York Rangers, Sunday, 3:30 p.m., NBC
@ Edmonton Oilers, Wednesday, 8:30 p.m., NESN
 

Jeremy Lauzon paid an appropriate price, but why didn't the league protect a young star in McAvoy?

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Jeremy Lauzon paid an appropriate price, but why didn't the league protect a young star in McAvoy?

DETROIT – The NHL Department of Player Safety is always in a spot where they’re not going to make everybody happy with their decisions. So, in that vein, it’s difficult to imagine that Bruins fans would embrace a two-game suspension for Jeremy Lauzon that was handed out on Sunday afternoon.

Clearly, the 22-year-old Lauzon had some supplemental discipline coming his way after a punishing check to Derek Stepan’s head in the Saturday win over the Arizona Coyotes. It's the kind of hit that the NHL is trying to get out of the league.

But there were so many mitigating circumstances to the hit that were seemingly working in his favor whether it was Lauzon’s first time being in trouble with the league, the lack of injury to Stepan on the play or the fact that Lauzon had already missed most of the Saturday game with a match penalty.

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There was some notion that Lauzon might simply get off with a one-game suspension because of all that. But the simple truth is that these days the NHL is giving out a bare minimum of two-game suspensions on headshots with no injuries sustained.

The league no longer considers time served when calculating a suspension and instead just takes a hard stance against the kind of plays that typically cause concussions.

Bruce Cassidy was still at a loss to explain exactly what was behind the suspension when asked about it following Sunday’s 3-1 loss to the Red Wings in Detroit that had the Bruins scrambling a bit without Lauzon.

“Like I said yesterday, I thought they were similar hits,” said Bruce Cassidy. “One goes for a match penalty and the other is two minutes. Brad Meier was the one that called both, so only he can answer how he saw them. He’s been in the league a long time, so I assume he’s got a good grasp on those things. I thought [the hit] was high on Charlie and we were fortunate he wasn’t concussed. And the same with [Derek] Stepan because he came back to play and both players are healthy.”

That’s fine if that’s what the NHL is going to do across the board, but the inconsistency is maddening when a similar play from the very same game goes without the same penalty. During the game, Lawson Crouse crushed Charlie McAvoy in the corner with a hit targeted at the Bruins defenseman’s head, and it could easily be viewed as a retribution hit as it arrived early in the second period in answer to the Lauzon headshot on Stepan.

Instead, Crouse was given a two-minute minor penalty during the game and there was no corresponding supplemental discipline for the Arizona Coyotes forward. Given the motives behind the hit and the fact it was a hit targeted at one the NHL’s young stars in McAvoy, it’s mind-blowing that the NHL’s on-ice officials and their player safety department both glossed over the offending action.

Isn’t a player like McAvoy exactly the kind of young player that the NHL wants to keep healthy and performing while discouraging opponents from taking cheap shots at them?

If the league is able to make an example out of a young, physical defenseman in Lauzon that clearly made a mistake without bad intent, then they should do the same thing with a physical player on the edge like Crouse that was up to no good when he clocked McAvoy. Particularly with a player like McAvoy, that basically missed the first half of last season dealing with the aftermath of concussion issues. 

It’s that simple and the striking contrast between two similar headshots from the same game being treated differently to an incredible extreme is not a good look.

Instead, it uncovers the kind of inconsistency that the NHL Department of Player Safety was created to eradicate in the first place, and that feels like a problem when the league’s young stars aren’t being protected the way they should.  

Scoring drought weighed on Bruins' Charlie McAvoy, but now he's dominant

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Scoring drought weighed on Bruins' Charlie McAvoy, but now he's dominant

CHICAGO — Some will point to Wednesday’s first goal of the season as a breakthrough moment this year for 22-year-old defenseman Charlie McAvoy after up and down play in the first half of the regular season.

There’s no doubt it was “a relief” as McAvoy called it after going through 51 games and four full months of hockey this season before the offensive D-man finally notched a goal on the ledger for the 2019-20 season.

“It’s nice. It was tough. It weighs [on you]. As much as you don’t want to say, you think about it and your confidence and everything. You feel like you can contribute a set amount and sometimes when it’s not there you take a bit of a hit. But I said to these guys ‘thanks for keeping my confidence high’ and they all do,” said McAvoy, looking around the Bruins dressing room. “Everybody was saying it was coming, it was coming. The response was pretty neat. They were all busting my chops. Hopefully from there my confidence [comes back] and maybe I see more things go in for me.

They wouldn’t let me up [after the goal]. I was down there [under the pile] for about 30 seconds and then I was like ‘I guess we’re just staying in Chicago tonight.’ It was awesome. We are such a close group and I could feel everybody’s genuine happiness for me. We all share that with each other when everybody does good things.

But the truth is that the game-winning overtime goal in Wednesday night’s 2-1 OT win over the Chicago Blackhawks at the United Center had been in the works for a couple games as McAvoy has clearly elevated his play coming out of the extended 10-day break for All-Star Weekend and Boston’s bye week.

It was most readily apparent as McAvoy tapped in a Jake DeBrusk feed in transition to catapult the B’s to their fifth straight win after 22 minutes of strong performance against Chicago, but the simple fact is he’s been a dominant No. 1 defenseman for a couple of weeks.

It was McAvoy who drilled Mark Schiefele at the defensive blue in Winnipeg with a punishing hit that embroiled the Bruins into their combative win over the Jets, who set up each of Boston’s first two goals in Tuesday night’s shutout win over Vancouver and then it was McAvoy again last night stepping up and providing the heroics in overtime against the Blackhawks.

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“He was still playing very well for us. He’s had a little tough luck and at times he’s over-passed a little bit as well. But [in overtime] he had no choice and had to shoot it. I’m happy for him,” said Bruce Cassidy. “He’s just playing lots of minutes, playing to his strength and getting up the ice when he can. I liked his first assist [against Vancouver] with a shot through traffic. He’s a good match-up player for us every night and the offense will come. Maybe [the last two games] is a sign of things to come.”

There’s no coincidence to the fact that McAvoy has been playing his best hockey of the season while the Bruins have won five games in a row to fortify their position at the top of the Atlantic Division standings. It was a challenge at times for McAvoy to keep confidence up when the young D-man hadn’t scored in the first 51 games of the season, but that’s where his experienced teammates came into play.

Certainly, he’s feeling refreshed after the midseason break across the NHL and he’s playing his best, most instinctual hockey of the season right now.

“The break was very helpful physically for a little bit of rest and recovery for the body,” said McAvoy. “Coming back I feel energized and I feel good. I feel like I can move around skate a little more, and that I have a little more energy. It really goes a long way. I’m going to go for as long as that lasts, and then I’ll be looking for new routines and new recoveries to find ways to stay fresh.”

It’s a tall order for McAvoy to fill his job description every night as a No. 1 defenseman who needs to play in every situation and needs to make an impact offensively, defensively and physically, but the saying goes that much is expected to whom much is given.

McAvoy was given quite a bit in the hockey talent department — and he’s playing like the dominant force he can be over the last handful of games.