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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John Moore returns to Bruins lineup, and shows the way to stand up for David Pastrnak

John Moore returns to Bruins lineup, and shows the way to stand up for David Pastrnak

BOSTON – John Moore didn’t expect to get into a fight in his first game back from major shoulder surgery over the summer.

But somebody had to step up and step in with other teams taking runs at David Pastrnak the past couple of weeks, and it was Moore that did just that after Zack Smith blew up the NHL’s leading scorer with a borderline high hit in the third period of the Bruins' 4-3 overtime loss to the Blackhawks at TD Garden. 

Smith handled Moore pretty easily in the ensuing altercation and it looked like the Bruins defenseman thought he re-injured his shoulder as he skated back to the dressing room afterward.

Still, the message was sent by Moore that the opposition wasn’t going to make it open season on Boston’s game-breaking right winger without paying a price for it. That says something about Moore in his first game back after missing the first 28 games with a grueling rehab from shoulder surgery, but it also says something about the rest of the Bruins that a guy coming off shoulder surgery was the one that had to finally do it.

“You can’t say enough about him, right? Here he is, coming off of shoulder surgery and obviously it’s a reaction thing. He’s not thinking about anything other than protecting his teammates. So, that just tells you all you need to know about his character,” said Bruce Cassidy. “Probably not the perfect guy in that situation coming off that injury, but good for him. He’ll earn a lot of respect in that locker room that he already had, but now even more.”

The good news for Moore was that his shoulder checked out okay after he finished with three shots on net, three hits and a couple of blocked shots in 16:11 of ice time. Still, more than any of the other plays in the game, Moore will be remembered for finally doing something about the runs teams have taken at Pastrnak while trying to slow him down offensively.

“I don’t know if it was the smartest decision in the world, but I saw somebody take liberty with [Pastrnak] and thought it was my turn,” said Moore. “I’m totally fine and no issues [with my shoulder]. I was right there, I saw [the hit] and I didn’t like it. I thought something needed to be done so I acted on it. That’s just the way I am. I thought it had to be addressed there.

“I was excited [to return]. I wasn’t going to need any extra motivation going into this game. If anything I was trying to calm myself down. When you take almost 30 games watching, you have a lot of time to reflect, appreciate and be grateful to be a Boston Bruins and play in the NHL. It’s something I don’t take for granted.”

Perhaps now other players on the Bruins roster will be ready to follow Moore's lead as it appears teams aren't going to stop taking liberties with Pastrnak as long as it’s working to slow him a little offensively.

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Haggerty's Talking Points: Torey Krug's offense shines, David Pastrnak enduring first rough patch

Haggerty's Talking Points: Torey Krug's offense shines, David Pastrnak enduring first rough patch

GOLD STAR: Jonathan Toews hasn’t had a great season as evidenced by just five goals on his ledger for the year, but he had a nice little throwback performance against the Bruins on Thursday night. Toews stripped David Pastrnak of the puck in overtime and then scored on a breakaway at the other end of the ice for the game-winner in a neat little dispatching of the B’s in the extra session.

Toews finished with three shots on net, six shot attempts, three hits, a couple of takeaways and a couple blocked shots to go along with 17-of-28 face-off wins in 19:37 of ice time for the Blackhawks. It was a vintage Toews performance for Chicago in a win for the Blackhawks and it’s something that hasn’t happened nearly enough for him this season.

BLACK EYE: David Pastrnak is going through his first tough stretch of the season. He finished with more giveaways (three) than shots on net (two) and also took a pair of minor penalties while pretty clearly getting frustrated with the rough treatment he’s getting from opponents.

It was Pastrnak that went down in overtime with the puck – either by a trip from Jonathan Toews or a flop looking for a call depending on who you are talking to – and created the game-winning goal for Toews at the other end of the ice. Pastrnak has now gone two games without a goal for just the third time all season and is now falling off his 70-goal pace for the season while seemingly getting frustrated by being targeted by the other teams.

TURNING POINT: For the Bruins it was the ends and beginnings of periods where they lost their focus and lost the game. The Bruins allowed two goals in 37 seconds in the closing minutes of the first period to dig themselves a considerable hole against the Blackhawks, and then they coughed up another goal to Chicago in the first 17 seconds of the third period to go down by a 3-0 score.

People will want to talk about the play in overtime that lost it for the Bruins, but it was their wandering focus at points in regulation that ended up saddling them with the loss when it was all said and done. The Bruins eventually lost in OT, and they really deserved to lose based on the way they played for the first 45 or so minutes of the game.

HONORABLE MENTION: Torey Krug scored the game-tying goal for the Bruins in the closing minutes of the third period and deserves the credit for stepping up offensively when the team needed a big play.

Krug finished with the goal along with a team-high seven shots on net and nine shot attempts in 21:28 of ice time. Krug also threw a hit and had a couple of takeaways while generating secondary offense for the Bruins, given that both Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak have slowed down a little bit in recent days.

It’s going to be interesting to see where Krug is at offensively by the end of the season based on a pretty decent start compared to the very, very slow ones he’s had in recent seasons while coming back from injuries.

BY THE NUMBERS: 12-0-5 – the Bruins continue to have gone without a regulation loss on the home ice at TD Garden after dropping another overtime decision, this time to the Blackhawks after crawling back from a 3-0 hole in the third period.

QUOTE TO NOTE: “Complacency? I would say no. Lack of urgency some nights? I would say yes. We’re not pushing as hard as we need to to get to our level. Is that because of where we are [in the Atlantic Division standings], is that because of last year, is that because we feel like we’re a good enough team that we can flip a switch? Probably bits and pieces of all those things, I’m not going to deny it. Our job is to make sure we don’t get complacent. I don’t think we have been, to be honest with you. I think it would show in our record if we were.” –Bruce Cassidy, when asked if he needs to guard against complacency setting in with the Bruins based on their huge lead in the Atlantic Division.

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