Bruins

Bruins' Charlie McAvoy hopes 'offense is going to break through' after slow start

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Bruins' Charlie McAvoy hopes 'offense is going to break through' after slow start

BOSTON — Charlie McAvoy isn’t the biggest problem with the Bruins offense right now based on the black hole that the Bruins are getting offensively from their second- and third-line forwards over the last couple of weeks.

But the 21-year-old defenseman hasn’t been part of the solution either as the B’s lost a 4-3 shootout to the Tampa Bay Lightning on Thursday night little help from anybody offensively that’s not named Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron or David Pastrnak.

McAvoy has just one assist in the first seven games of the season, is a minus-2 and has just eight shots on net while averaging a team-high 22:21 of ice time. Certainly, the lack of offense is an issue for a developing young player the Bruins hope can develop into a bona fide No. 1 D-man in the NHL capable of double-digit goals and 50 points per season.

McAvoy is keenly aware that he needs to be an impact player and he hasn’t been that to this point in the season. Some of it is finding that balance between being offensively assertive and defensively responsible, and some of it is about simply shooting the puck more for a guy with top drawer offensive skill on the back end.

“We’d like to start bringing our ‘A’ game and that’s me personally. We’re building it and we’re just going to keep going up,” said McAvoy. “I think I just need to keep pushing and playing mistake-free hockey. I know that’s not possible, but I do the best I can. I’m just trying to contribute when I can and hopefully the offense will break through at some point. But I don’t want to push it in the way that will make me defensively irresponsible. I just need to keep moving my feet and skating. We have a lot of good players on this team so we’ll find it.”

It’s why the Bruins handed him a substantial bridge contract that starts paying him $4.9 million per season and sets him up for a big raise on his next deal three years down the road. But McAvoy needs to develop his offensive game, get dangerous quarterbacking the power play and create much more during even-strength play with his outlet passing and on-ice vision.

Instead right now McAvoy was one of two guilty parties — along with Zdeno Chara — who allowed Brayden Point to sneak behind them in the closing seconds of the first period, and that breakaway goal helped turn the tide in a game they eventually lost in the shootout. So now not only is McAvoy not stepping up enough offensively, but he’s making mental mistakes on the ice that are costing the Black and Gold at the defensive end of the ice.

McAvoy admits that his game isn’t where it needs to be right now, though he’s got company across a Bruins roster that’s been relying far too much on their top three forwards to do everything early in the season.

“It kinds of happens. It comes and goes. I think once we break through, personally I’m hoping to just keep pushing and things will come,” said McAvoy. “First and foremost, I’m trying to be the most reliable player I can be and then those things come. They just do. There’s a ton of hockey left and we’ll find it.”

McAvoy and the most of the Bruins will find it at some point, but they could certainly use a few more players to find their game offensively at a time when they are far too top-heavy with their offensive production.

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Joe Haggerty's Talking Points from the B's 4-1 loss to the Avalanche

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Joe Haggerty's Talking Points from the B's 4-1 loss to the Avalanche

Here are my talking points from the Bruins’ first regulation loss at home in 2019-20:

GOLD STAR: It isn’t going to happen very often, but Ian Cole turned out to be the single biggest contributor in a team-wide win for the Avalanche. It was Cole that smoked a slap shot past the glove hand of Jaroslav Halak to give Colorado a 2-1 lead in the second period, and he made certain his first goal of the season was an important one. Cole also blocked five shots in 17:17 of ice time and was part of a gritty, determined effort to protect the lead once the Avs got up 3-1 in the third. He mixed in a couple of hits and a couple of takeaways as well, and made some big plays in what was pretty much a perfect game overall for Colorado.

HIGHLIGHTS: Bruins take first home regulation loss vs. Avs, 4-1

BLACK EYE: There’s more than a few, but how about Danton Heinen just not making the plays that he needs to make when he’s in the lineup? Forget about the zero shots on net in 16:45 of ice time, with a number of them either getting blocked or missing the net. That’s nothing new when it comes to a player that’s barely averaging a shot on net for game. But he also turned the puck over behind the Boston net in a sequence that led to Cole’s game-winner as the Bruins began to run around in the defensive zone. It was that particular play that led Bruce Cassidy to lament that the attention to details was lacking for his players at this point in the season. If Heinen isn’t making the little plays, is a minus player and isn’t bringing any offense, then he isn’t worth having in the lineup.

TURNING POINT: The Bruins went into the first intermission tied at 1-1 after only putting four shots on net, and should have had the kind of wakeup call that they needed to turn the intensity up a little bit. Instead they went through a second period where they again only put up four shots on net while falling behind by two goals headed into the final 20 minutes. The Avalanche only leveled five shots on net as well, but they scored on a pair of them and pounced all over Boston’s mistakes while playing a surprisingly disciplined, two-way game despite their explosive offensive players. This time around, the Bruins didn’t have any way to come back in the third period against a quality Colorado team that wasn’t going to fold for them.

#HaggBag: Any worries about the B's? Let's hear 'em

HONORABLE MENTION: One of the few players to put up an honest-to-goodness effort in the loss was the hard-hitting fourth liner, Chris Wagner. It was Wagner that redirected a John Moore point shot in the first period for his third goal of the season that gave the Bruins an initial lead in the game. Wagner led the Bruins with five registered hits, scored on the only shot on net he had in the game and won 5-of-10 face-offs that he took in his 12:39 of ice time. The shame was that there weren’t enough other players that rose to the level of urgency and compete that Wagner was showing throughout the game for the Black and Gold.

BY THE NUMBERS: 17 – The home point streak (12-0-5) is over for the Bruins as the Avs handed them their first regulation loss on home ice this year, and their first since Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final against the St. Louis Blues almost six months ago.

QUOTE TO NOTE: “There’s just a lot of details that are working us against us now. We’ve just got to wake up and start playing to our abilities in those situations. And live with the result. It doesn’t mean we’re going to win, but I think we’re leaving plays on the table because our lack of urgency or understanding that teams are coming after us.” –Bruce Cassidy, lamenting the lack of urgency in the B’s game as they dropped a 4-1 decision to the Avalanche.

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Highlights: Bruins can't seize momentum, fall 4-1 to Avs

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Highlights: Bruins can't seize momentum, fall 4-1 to Avs

FINAL SCORE: Avalanche 4, Bruins 1

IN BRIEF: The Bruins tied it early with a Chris Wagner tip-in off a John Moore shot from the point, but from there the Avs dictated play to hand Boston its first home loss in regulation at TD Garden in the 2019-20 season. It was a Pyrrhic victory for the Avs, though, who lost Calder Trophy favorite and former UMass star Cale Makar to injury.

BOX SCORE

BRUINS RECORD: 20-4-6 (46 points, 1st in Atlantic Division)

HIGHLIGHTS

WAGNER TIPS HOME MOORE’S SHOT FROM POINT

AVS LOSE MAKAR

UP NEXT:

At Ottawa, Monday, 7:30 p.m., NESN

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