Bruins lose McAvoy to lower body injury, hope it's not serious

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Bruins lose McAvoy to lower body injury, hope it's not serious

BOSTON – The Bruins have to be hoping for the best when it comes to 20-year-old defenseman Charlie McAvoy. 

The rookie D-man was done for the night after just 37 seconds of ice time in the first period of Boston’s comeback 2-1 win over the Montreal Canadiens at TD Garden, and left with a lower body injury that wasn’t specified after the game was over. It was difficult to tell what exactly happened with McAvoy when he was on the ice as he skated awkwardly by the boards, and then was tripped up by some stick-work from Brendan Gallagher right afterward. 


At that point McAvoy skated off the ice to the dressing room, and the Bruins were essentially forced to play with five defensemen for the entirety of the game. Afterward Bruce Cassidy didn’t have an update on McAvoy’s condition, but was hopeful that it wasn’t going to be a serious injury for his dynamic top-pairing defenseman. 

“Lower body. [He] obviously didn’t return. Tomorrow is a scheduled day off, so everyone will be off and Monday we will have a better idea of where he’s at,” said Bruce Cassidy. “Did he get his foot caught up with the other guy, or is it something maybe before that? I don’t have a good answer to that, to be honest.”

“It won’t be too hard to find out because he was out there for 37 seconds, so by the time we go through it [we should see it]. Hopefully it’s not serious. It didn’t look serious at the time, but I don’t really know.”

The Bruins ended up with a massive 50 shots on net for the game, but only began finishing on goals in the final three minutes of regulation, and then again for the game-winner in overtime. The B’s, minus McAvoy, had some difficulty moving the puck and setting things up offensively, and ended up playing Torey Krug much more on the power play without their dynamic rookie D-man. 

“Clearly we had some issues moving the puck out of our zone. Charlie is a transporter; he’s a mover, passer and all of the above. Offensive zone, he can create some space and get some shots through, and make some plays,” said Cassidy. “Then it wears on you from the opening shift defending. That’s 23 minutes a night that you’ve got to now have to parse out over for the full 59 minutes through five guys. “So I think some of our pinches were a little bit late because maybe we were fatigued, and that allowed a few more odd-man rushes than we would like. But for the most part, it’s that puck-moving, first pass that we missed [with McAvoy’s injury].”

It will be a lot more that is missed if the lower body injury turns out to be of a more serious nature for a rookie defenseman that’s been a game-changer for the Black and Gold. In fact the Bruins’ Cup aspirations would be in jeopardy if the McAvoy turned out to be anything that was potentially season-ending. There’s absolutely no indication of that right now, of course, and the best case scenario for McAvoy and the Bruins is that it’s a tweak that will plenty of time to be fully healed ahead of next month’s Stanley Cup playoffs.

That’s what the Bruins have to be hoping for after already losing Bergeron earlier this week to a fractured right foot that’s already starting to take a toll on the team’s goal-scoring abilities.


Haggerty: With Jaroslav Halak in place, dealing Tuukka Rask shouldn't be out of the question

Haggerty: With Jaroslav Halak in place, dealing Tuukka Rask shouldn't be out of the question

There are a couple of inalienable facts about next year’s goaltending situation with the Boston Bruins.

The first is that the B’s have most definitely upgraded in that area with 33-year-old Jaroslav Halak as the backup to Tuukka Rask. Halak is a flat-out better goalie than Anton Khudobin, and should be a little more consistent than the Russian backup, who was admittedly excellent last season while racking up a 16-6-7 record as Tuukka Rask’s understudy.

Halak, on the other hand, has won less than 18 games in a season only twice in his 10 full seasons at the NHL level, and has been a starter with the Canadiens, Blues, Capitals and Islanders with a career .916 save percentage over his NHL career. In case anybody hadn’t noticed that’s also been Tuukka Rask’s save percentage over the last three seasons for the Bruins.

Which brings us to inalienable goaltending fact No. 2: Halak is going to push Rask like he hasn’t been challenged since truly taking over as the top goalie in Boston.

The last truly competitive situation with Rask between the B’s pipes was in 2011-12 in Tim Thomas’ last season with the Bruins when the Finnish goaltender was backing up a reigning Conn Smythe Trophy winner. Rask had temporarily taken Thomas’ job away from him two years prior during the 2009-10 season when he was a rookie goalie, and that sparked the best season of Thomas’ NHL career where he led the Black and Gold to a Stanley Cup victory.


Since then Rask has had “just another guys” like Chad Johnson, Niklas Svedberg, Jonas Gustavsson and Anton Khudobin backing him up, and none of those backups had the kind of juice to truly take Rask’s job away from him. The best Khudobin could do was start four straight games for the Bruins back in November of last season, and that turned out to be one of the turning points in a 112-point campaign where Rask was significantly motivated from that point onward.

Halak could legitimately get on a hot streak in the regular season and force the Bruins coaching staff to sit Rask for weeks, or even a month, at a time, and that’s something no backup has ever been able to do behind Boston’s Franchise Finn. That should be a good thing and that is something the B’s are already counting on to happen for next season.

“We’ve talked about internal competition. Maybe it puts Tuukka in a better mindset. There were nights when Tuukka [played] back-to-backs. That’s a lot of stress on the goaltender knowing… I think two years ago we didn’t have a win by our backup at Christmas time,” said Don Sweeney, on July 1 after signing Halak to a two-year contract. “I’m not sure you guys wrote about it, but I did, and I lost sleep about it.

“I think we have two guys that have carried the ball for their teams, [and] that will push each other, that will complement each other, and we feel good that now going in every night. That is an area we aren’t going to be concerned about, hopefully. Obviously, it’s [about] the performance now.”

Now here’s the fork in the road where the inalienable Bruins goaltending facts and some good, old-fashioned speculation go their separate ways.

It doesn’t mean that it’s going to happen, but the addition of Halak for multiple years also opens up the possibility of trading away Rask if the right deal comes across Sweeney’s desk. The $2.75 million per season that the Bruins are paying Halak is the going rate for a top-of-the-line goalie, but it now also means the B’s are paying just under $10 million per season over the next two years for their goaltending tandem. That’s a whopping 12.5 percent of the $79.5 million in salary cap space, which is much less than either of the teams in this spring’s Stanley Cup Final (Vegas paid $6.4 million for their goalies and Washington paid $7.6 million for the Braden Holtby/Philipp Grubauer combo) shelled out for their goaltending.

In fact, only Montreal is spending more money on goaltending than the Bruins this season thanks to the awful Carey Price contract, and – along with the Bruins -- only the Panthers, Canadiens and Avalanche are paying north of $9 million in cap space for their goalies next season. For a Bruins team that was just barely in the NHL’s top-10 in save percentage and where the goaltending wasn’t really a demonstrable strength in the playoffs, that feels like a lot.  


Rask has a limited trade clause for this upcoming season where he can be traded to eight NHL teams, and that “can be traded to” list gets bumped up to 15 teams in the following season. The Bruins did everything possible last season to make sure that Rask was mentally and physically rested with the 54 appearances, which was right around the targeted 55-60 games the Bruins had him penciled in for at the start of last season.

But even after all that rest and being given the high maintenance treatment, Rask still responded with a shaky postseason that was the worst statistically of his career. The 2.88 goals against average and .903 save percentage were the worst playoff marks of his NHL career, and Rask was an absolute disaster in their Game 7 showdown with the Maple Leafs. If the Bruins hadn’t completely shut down Toronto in the first half of the third period where they didn’t allow a shot on net (and didn’t allow Rask to even be a factor in the balance of that game), they probably wouldn’t have even advanced beyond the first round prior to their second round smack-down at the hands of the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Rask was better in the second round vs. Tampa and added to his career highlight reel when he angrily fired a broken skate blade at the boards, but there are still some of the very same, nagging questions about Boston’s top goalie when it comes to big games.   

So why not start to explore what Rask could yield in a hockey trade, and even pull the trigger if the price is right given that Halak is there as a proven starting goaltender? There has been plenty of talk about Torey Krug being on the move if the right trade comes up to fit Boston’s needs, and there’s no reason why Boston’s All-Star, $7 million a year goaltender shouldn’t be part of that roster improvement conversation as well.

Nobody is saying to ship Rask simply for the sake of doing it, and clearly the Bruins would need to find themselves a young goalie they could groom as the eventual No. 1 guy to go along with the older, declining Halak. But the signing of Halak officially opened the door for the Bruins to at least toy with the idea of moving Rask in a good hockey trade to a team desperate for goaltending help (Carolina, the Islanders and the Flyers immediately come to mind), and that might not be such a bad thing for the Black and Gold.