Bruins

Charlie McAvoy continues striving to be just like Drew Doughty

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Charlie McAvoy continues striving to be just like Drew Doughty

BRIGHTON, Mass – When 19-year-old Charlie McAvoy suits up for Saturday night’s game against the Los Angeles Kings, he’ll be meeting head-to-head for the first time with one of the NHL stars he models his game after in Kings defenseman and Norris Trophy winner Drew Doughty.

McAvoy has a goal and seven points in eight games this season, and is averaging 20:53 of ice time for the Bruins in his first go-round through the league, so it would seem whatever he’s doing to tailor his game is working.

The teenager has been impressive in his early role as smooth puck-mover and efficient power play quarterback, and will be even more so when he gains greater confidence and assertiveness as a highly skilled, highly dangerous defenseman. McAvoy was given favorable comparisons to Doughty all the way back when he was drafted by the Bruins two-plus years ago, and nothing he’s done since has dampened those early comparisons.

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“There definitely a lot of inspirations in the last generation in the NHL and this generation in the NHL that’s playing right now. There are a lot of guys where I can try to pull things from their game and make it into my own,” said McAvoy. “[Doughty] has achieved the label of what I want over my career, which is a complete defenseman that can kill penalties, play the power play, play a lot of minutes every night and be reliable and responsible while still being able to contribute all over the ice.

“He’s made that name and he has that reputation he can go out and do that. There’s a little bit of a comparison there. He goes out and uses his body in a physical way and that’s something I can definitely do too. He’s somebody I look up and he’s a phenomenal player, and if I can continue to look at different aspects of his game then I’ll be a better player for it.”

It’s perfectly okay that McAvoy will never be an Erik Karlsson-type offensive machine revolutionizing the position or a strict stay-at-home grunt grinding it out on the back end, but should instead be a defenseman with zero weaknesses that can skate, pass, shoot, throw big hits, defend and play a ton of minutes. Those kinds of D-men are worth their weight in gold.

"[McAvoy's got] composure play to break pucks out late in the game. A lot of good things out of him. We’ve got a head start about him [from the playoffs] obviously, but he’s another [rookie] that fits in that category that’s coming along,” said Bruce Cassidy. “As the temperature of the game goes up, his ability to play in those games is what separates him as a young guy. And we need it. If you can put out fires by breaking pucks out of your own end cleanly under a heavy fore-check, you’re going to be a successful team, because you’re going to be on the move the other way and attacking. We’ve got some guys that can finish.”

Much like Doughty, McAvoy has loftier goals than simply topping out as an offensive defenseman racking up points on the power play, avoiding rolling up of his sleeves for the dirty work required by good hockey teams. McAvoy wants to do everything well whether it’s killing penalties, shutting down top lines or throwing his weight around, and he has already begun to show those signs just a couple of weeks into the season. McAvoy has begun pushing into PK duty with Adam McQuaid sidelined with the broken leg, and had a huge block of a teed up slap shot while killing a penalty in the closing minutes of Thursday night’s win over the San Jose Sharks.

It’s that kind of full-bodied, workhorse duty that McAvoy is looking to develop where he can become another Doughty capable of playing in all situations, impacting a game heavily at both ends of the ice and perhaps someday winning a Norris Trophy and leading his team to a Stanley Cup. For now, however, McAvoy will simply be flattered by any comparisons between himself and Doughty, and just keep on maturing and using his growing experience to become the all-around D-man that his talents dictate that he will be.

“There are a lot of people I like to take aspects from. Drew Doughty is one of them. Tyson Barrie is another one I like to watch. I think Kris Letang is an unbelievable defenseman with skating and ability both offensively and defensively,” said McAvoy. “All of these guys are complete players on their teams, they compete in every aspect and they’re all relied on for every situation. Those are the kind of guys I look up to, and it’s really special to be in the same league as them now.”

The long-term plan is for McAvoy to become a true No. 1 defenseman workhorse for the Bruins capable of doing everything on the ice, and that’s exactly the kind of player that will vault the B’s back into a legit Stanley Cup contender. It may be a couple of years down the line before McAvoy completely gets there, but the Bruins have that kind of time as they continue to introduce young talent into their reloading lineup.

The D-man prodigy has certainly begun living up to that billing in his first full month in the NHL, and things like time, experience and good health are going to be the keys for McAvoy truly becoming the Doughty of the next generation.  

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Bruins' David Backes barely escapes serious injury in taking skate blade to the face

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Bruins' David Backes barely escapes serious injury in taking skate blade to the face

BOSTON – It seems like David Backes has been a magnet for high sticks this season and the 34-year-old has also missed time with a concussion as well.

The bad luck streak continued for him on Tuesday night when Backes caught an errant skate blade to the face in the first period as Oliver Ekman-Larsson kicked up his skates aside the Arizona net. He immediately sprinted off the ice toward the Bruins dressing room while covering his bloody face with his hand.  

True to hockey player form, Backes returned and played 15:31 of ice time with three shot attempts, three hits and went 4-for-10 in the face-off circle while toughing it out with a face full of stitches.

“I didn’t know what happened at first, but the way [Backes] came off you figured it was worse than a high stick. Sure enough. Those are tough, up around your eyes too, but he was able to play through it,” said Bruce Cassidy. “I’m sure he’ll be sore tomorrow. Charlie [McAvoy] too got a high stick under the visor, so he’s had some tough luck recently, but he’s battling through it. It was a bit like our game [against the Coyotes]. It wasn’t pretty, but we got through it.”

Backes didn’t discuss his close call with the media following the Bruins win, but was spotted walking out of TD Garden with a stitched up slice next to his nose, but thankfully far from his neck, his eyes or anywhere else where the blade could have done major damage. Instead Backes will just add to the character of a 34-year-old face that’s seen its share of bumps and bruises over the course of a long NHL career. 

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Krejci relishes his chance to produce with Bruins' top line

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Krejci relishes his chance to produce with Bruins' top line

BOSTON – All it took was a move up to the Bruins' top line in place of the injured Patrice Bergeron to ignite David Krejci’s offense and playmaking abilities.

Krejci finished with three assists in a 4-3 win over the Arizona Coyotes on Tuesday night and is riding a four-game point streak with two goals and seven points since getting installed with Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak last week in the loss to Tampa Bay.

“It’s been fun. Those are two world-class players, so I’m just happy to be on that line and happy to help the team win [some] games,” said Krejci, who has four goals and 23 points in 30 games this season. “I’m just going to try to be in the right time at the right place, so you know, they make things happen. [It’s] so much fun playing with those guys. So [I’m] just filling in for Bergy [Patrice Bergeron] and happy I can help the team win games.”

Before then, the Bruins were trying to get by with Colby Cave, Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson or Joakim Nordstrom in between the two star scorers and there were mixed results with each of them.

Once it was clear something wasn’t right with the health of Jake DeBrusk, however, it became inevitable that B’s would create a super line with Marchand, Krejci and Pastrnak. And it’s coincided with the B's offense enjoying some of their best scoring games since Zdeno Chara and Patrice Bergeron went down with injuries.

“Obviously it took a couple games, but, you know, today all we needed to do was drive to the net with [David Krejci]. He’s a great playmaker. It’s been fun tonight,” said Pastrnak, who was then asked if Krejci is a “pass-first” kind of player. “[Krejci] is a pass-first player, pass-second player, [pass] third, and then he shoots type of player.

“Bergy and Marchy like to play fast, and Krech likes to slow it down sometimes, you know, and it’s...both of [those styles] work, you know? Some nights it works better if you play fast and some nights it works better if you play slower. It’s just two star players and it’s been fun tonight, and obviously, it was a big game.”

Certainly, the chemistry is building with two Davids and a Brad Line. That was obvious by the tic-tac-toe passing that led to each of their goals with Marchand finishing on a couple of chances right around the net. The best of the bunch was the dish from Krejci through a couple of defenders to a wide open Marchand, who buried the shot and then was run over by a Coyotes defender far too late to the party.

That’s been part of the challenge the past few games for No. 46 to generate the offense, but also play the two-way game required when centering Marchand and Pastrnak. That means taking the big face-offs late in the game when there isn’t  No. 37 around to do it and pretty much doing whatever is required for the win.

“He slows the game down when he’s allowed to see the game quicker than everyone else, can make those plays when it looks like they’re closing off. He did it tonight, and we needed it,” said Bruce Cassidy. “Let’s face it. We need those guys to be our best players every night and offensively they’ve come through for us as of late. He’s an offensive guy, so when the puck goes in the back of the net and they’re making plays.

“He makes nice plays, creative plays. He’s going to enjoy the game. I’ve noticed in the rest of his game he’s digging in. He knows he has to be a good defensive center for those guys. They’re creative wingers that will leak out of their spots from time to time to anticipate a play. That’s when you have to have a centreman, and that’s when Bergy’s [Patrice Bergeron] so good at putting out those fires.”

Now, it’s Krejci’s job to put out some fires and generate some offense in one of the most coveted gigs in the NHL - centering big-time scorers Marchand and Pastrnak. It’s been so far, so good with nothing but wins and offensive production in each of the three full games that the three forwards have played together since last weekend. 

 

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