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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What we learned from the Bruins' OT loss to Canucks

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NBC Sports Illustration

What we learned from the Bruins' OT loss to Canucks

Here’s What We Learned from the Bruins 2-1 overtime loss to the Vancouver Canucks at Rogers Place on Saturday night.

1) The injuries are coming in a big bunch for the Black and Gold. They were already missing Torey Krug from the end of training camp, and now Charlie McAvoy, Kevan Miller and David Backes were all hit at the same time midway through the four-game road trip through Canada. It sounds like a possible concussion for McAvoy that was slow to develop, it sounds like a hand injury for Miller after getting hit with a shot and it also sounds like a concussion for Backes after the high hit from Matt Benning in the Edmonton loss. The Bruins are officially saying that McAvoy and Backes “aren’t feeling well” or “aren’t feeling right” so there’s some level of unknown with both of them given the lack of confirmation. With McAvoy and Krug both out of the lineup, the Bruins are missing a lot of offensive oomph from the back end, and they’re also now being forced to play guys like Brandon Carlo in the 3-on-3 overtime. That was exactly the case on the game-winning play for the Canucks as Carlo had a turnover at the offensive blue line when he couldn’t handle a pass, and then compounded it by misplaying the 2-on-1 with Brock Boeser and Bo Horvat bearing down on them. With the Bruins already pretty one-dimensional offensively while relying on their top line and the top power play unit, the subtraction of Krug and McAvoy makes that even more pronounced with two playmakers now injured and on the shelf.  

2) Pretty decent NHL debut for 19-year-old Urho Vaakanainen, who had a bit of a misplay on the first Vancouver goal when he followed Matt Grzelcyk behind the Boston net to chase at a puck carrier. But that was far from the biggest mistake on the play, and Vaakanainen settled down to play much better after that point. Vaakanainen finished with the minus-1 rating in 12:26 of ice time, had two shot attempts and one giveaway, and even got a little time on the penalty kill in his first time out. It was especially solid when considering that Vaakanainen played 26 minutes on Friday night in Providence, and then spent all of Saturday traveling across the continent to get to Vancouver in time for Saturday night’s game with both McAvoy and Miller on the shelf. Vaakanainen was certainly one of the good news developments in both training camp and now that he’s making his debut in the NHL, because it certainly appears like the former first round pick can play. And they need somebody like Vaakanainen that could bring a little more high end talent to the back end while the B’s are missing their blue line playmakers.

3) Interesting to watch Bruce Cassidy start to switch around that Perfection Line in the second period, and start to tweak things while looking for a way to coax more offense out of a team that’s down some good offensive players. Cassidy elevated Danton Heinen to the right wing with Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand to start the second period, and slotted David Pastrnak into the second line with David Krejci and Jake DeBrusk. It didn’t really bring any results for the Bruins, unfortunately, and Cassidy went right back to Pastrnak with Bergeron and Marchand when he still needed a goal to start the third period. They ended up getting it from Joakim Nordstrom rather than the top line, but it’s going to be tough for Cassidy to go away from a loaded top line at this point knowing that the Bruins are going to have to just survive the next week or two until they figure out what’s going on with their injured players.

Plus:

--Joakim Nordstrom scored the game-tying goal to earn the Bruins at least a point, and has now matched his entire season offensive output from last season in Carolina with his two goals scored in the first few weeks of the season.

--Jaroslav Halak stopped 20-of-22 shots including a stop right at the end of regulation play to push things into overtime, and was once again pretty good even if the first goal he allowed was one that he’s probably like to have back.

--Credit to Noel Acciari, who didn’t like a big hit that Bo Horvat put on Joakim Nordstrom with a puck up in the air, and opted to drop the gloves with Horvat to help protect his teammate. Horvat got the better of him as Acciari wound up with a big cut under his eye, but that’s the kind of thing that makes Acciari such a good teammate.

Minus:

--While it would have been good for Jaroslav Halak to make the save in the first period, it was Matt Grzelcyk’s inability to play a puck at his feet right in front of the net that led to Vancouver’s first goal in the game. Grzelcyk had a couple of giveaways and had some tough shifts skating with Urho Vaakanainen in the kid’s first NHL game, though he did also help set up the B’s only goal as well.

--No shots on net in 7:30 of ice time for Ryan Donato, who really hasn’t been able to make any impact at all offensively after scoring in the second game of the season against the Buffalo Sabres.

--Brandon Carlo had a good game, but unfortunately he was also forced into 3-on-3 OT duty with both Charlie McAvoy and Torey Krug on the shelf. That turned into Carlo making a turnover at the offensive blue line in OT, and then compounding it by misplaying the 2-on-1 that led to the Canucks game-winning goal.  

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Talking Points from the B's 2-1 OT loss to the Canucks

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USA Today Sports Images

Talking Points from the B's 2-1 OT loss to the Canucks

For the second straight game, the Bruins salvaged a point on the road in Western Canada. Here's my biggest talking points from Saturday's overtime loss in Vancouver:

GOLD STAR: Got to give it to Bo Horvat, who played a very strong all-around game for the Canucks. It was Horvat that finished off a 2-on-1 rush during the 3-on-3 overtime, when he connected on a pass from Brock Boeser to get the win for Vancouver. It was also Horvat that leveled Joakim Nordstrom with a hard hit in the second period as the B’s forward was playing a puck in mid-air, and then fought Noel Acciari when he came looking to defend his Bruins teammate. Acciari left the exchange bloodied after a couple of heavy punches from Horvat. In all Horvat finished with a goal and a plus-1 rating in 20:36 of ice time, with five shot attempts and a couple of registered hits. Horvat brought the physical thump and the skills to the table in the win for Vancouver.

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BLACK EYE: Matt Grzelcyk did finish with an assist on Boston’s only goal in the game, but he also was the main culprit in the first period goal scored by Vancouver. It was Grzelcyk that couldn’t corral a puck between his legs right in front of the net, and then watched helplessly as Brandon Sutter took the puck from him and slid a shot past Jaroslav Halak. Grzelcyk and Urho Vaakanainen struggled as a pair together Saturday, with both players still showing their relative youth out on the ice, and Grzelcyk definitely failing to make a play when the Bruins got scored on in regulation. Grzelcyk played 21:07 of ice time in the loss, missed the net with four of his six attempted shots and had a couple of giveaways including the one that led to Vancouver’s first goal.

TURNING POINT: The Bruins outshot the Canucks by a 10-8 margin in the third period and really turned on the jets to tie things up in the final 20 minutes, but they couldn’t take that energy and urgency into the overtime session. Instead they once again allowed two of the opponent’s best players to gain entry into the offensive zone with speed, and this time it was Brock Boeser feeding Bo Horvat on a 2-on-1 for the easy finish in the extra session. With the Bruins missing both Charlie McAvoy and Torey Krug to injuries right now, they are going to struggle in the 3-on-3 overtime sessions without their best puck-moving D-men.  

HONORABLE MENTION: Joakim Nordstrom has now totaled his entire season output for goals scored from last year with his second goal of the season for the Bruins. Again, it was a big goal for Nordstrom, bombing down the right wing on the third period and then wiring a shot past Jakob Markstrom for the game-tying score that sent the Bruins into overtime. Nordstrom in general was very good for the Bruins while centering the third line as a stand-in for the injured David Backes. He finished with a shot on net, two hits and two blocked shots in 14:11 of ice time while playing his heady, poised brand of hockey as a veteran NHL player. As has been remarked previously, it’s amazing to see how much Nordstrom has already contributed to the Bruins, considering how little fanfare he arrived with in Boston when he signed as a free agent on July 1.  

BY THE NUMBERS: 3 – The number of players that the Bruins lost prior to Saturday night’s game in Vancouver as Charlie McAvoy (not feeling well after taking a hit vs. Edmonton), Kevan Miller (hit in hand by a shot) and David Backes (not feeling well after taking high hit vs. Edmonton) were all out against the Canucks. It sounds like both McAvoy and Backes could be dealing with concussions, but nothing has been confirmed as of yet.  

QUOTE TO NOTE: “We were a little too perimeter in the first period. You’ve got to get your nose dirty to score goals in this league. I thought we did a better job of that in the final 40 minutes.” –Bruce Cassidy, to NESN, about the adjustment the Bruins made throughout the overtime loss to the Canucks. 

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