Countdown to Camp: Charlie McAvoy

NBC Sports Boston illustration

Countdown to Camp: Charlie McAvoy

From now until the beginning of training camp, Bruins Insider Joe Haggerty is profiling players who will be on, or have a chance to be on, the 2018-19 Bruins. Today: Charlie McAvoy.

Charlie McAvoy didn’t end up winning the Calder Trophy and probably didn’t have the complete rookie season he envisioned, but the 20-year-old also showed a lot of resiliency and regularly flashed the goods that will make him a future No. 1 defenseman in Boston. It was a year in which a little bit of everything was thrown at him, but it ended on a high note with McAvoy finding his game in the second round against Tampa Bay and playing very well for Team USA at the IIHF World Championships. As with David Pastrnak, the sky is the limit for McAvoy, an ultra-talented player who's going to be a part of the long-term plans in Boston. 

What Happened Last Year: After getting his feet wet in the playoffs two seasons ago, McAvoy was a full time D-man from training camp through the playoffs. The former BU star finished with strong numbers for a rookie defenseman (seven goals, 32 points) despite undergoing an in-season heart procedure and then suffering a late-season knee injury that left a lot of rust on his game when the playoffs began. When heatlhy, McAvoy had some strong and impressive individual performances and worked into a successful top-pairing D-partnership with Zdeno Chara. When the season was over, there was little doubt McAvoy is on track to become the No. 1 defenseman in Boston and will be in Black and Gold for a long, long time.

Questions To Be Answered This Season: The biggest is probably his ability to remain healthy, considering the amount of contact he’ll absorb as a workhorse-type D-man in the NHL. Given his sturdy frame (6-foot, 205 pounds) and his ability, prior to last year, to remain healthy, it’s easy to give McAvoy a pass and assume those were outliers rather than signs to come. Beyond that, the only question for McAvoy is how quickly he'll develop. He’s already shown he can play 25-plus minutes per night and that he can do everything well, so now McAvoy simple needs to beat the sophomore jinx and keep improving after a rock-solid rookie campaign.

In Their Words: “I think I grew mentally from [the adversity]. It’s good sometimes to go through something like that and have that experience. I thought that coming back [from the knee injury] was a little tough, but then I felt like I played my best hockey of the year when it mattered, towards the end, in that last series against Tampa. I thought I gave it everything I had and left it out there in Game 5, and unfortunately, it wasn’t enough. Like I said, there are some big things that you can pull from, and I’m going to pull from them and, you know, hopefully be a lot better next year for it.” –Charlie McAvoy, on the challenges of his rookie season and how they can make him a better player moving forward.  

Overall Outlook: McAvoy came into his rookie season with a lot of hype after his strong NHL debut during the 2017 Stanley Cup playoffs, and he largely lived up to it while finishing among the top five for Calder Trophy voting. The challenge is to build on that while more gets thrown on his shoulders by a Bruins team that clearly has big plans for him. It'll be interesting to see what kind of season McAvoy has in 2018-19 with his entry level deal up after this season and a big second contract potentially sitting there. McAvoy has Drew Doughty-type potential at the NHL level, and now it’s just a matter of how quickly he can get there.


Brad Marchand laments not 'being the guy that's a difference-maker' in Game 7

Brad Marchand laments not 'being the guy that's a difference-maker' in Game 7

BRIGHTON, Mass – It’s no secret to say that the Bruins best players were simply not that when it came to winning and losing time in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final.

Not only was the Perfection Line, Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron and David Pastrnak, held off the scoreboard in the 4-1 loss to the St. Louis Blues in the decisive game of the Cup Final, but a key mistake by Marchand led to the backbreaking goal. Marchand opted to head to the ice for a line change with 10 seconds left on the clock in the second period, and in doing so allowed the Blues an odd-man rush where Jaden Schwartz fed Alex Pietrangelo for the game-winning goal.

“The more you think about it, I think it just gets harder,” said Marchand. “You start to pick apart everything that you’d like to change. You start thinking about the ‘What ifs.’ It just makes it tough. This is going to hurt forever. You’re never going to get over it.

“There are a few things there [on the play]. A little more awareness to know there was only seven seconds left. I just would have been more aware of the guys coming up the ice because I thought [Jaden Schwartz] was all by himself. I thought the play was dead, but it obviously wasn’t. It was a bad read and I could have read the situation a little differently. That was the difference. One play can really change the outcome of a game. Unfortunately it was costly.”

So not only did the B’s top line not create any productive offense, but a glaring mistake proved to be the breaking point for the Black and Gold.

A couple of days later Marchand lamented the mistakes made in Game 7, and the inability to bring the same game to the postseason that allowed him to be a 100-point scorer during the regular season. Unfortunately for Marchand his Cup Final performance was about turnovers, bad decisions at both ends of the ice and an unwillingness at times to shoot the puck, and that’s not who No. 63 was for pretty much all of the regular season.  

“It’s definitely something you think about. Part of why we’re such a good group is that we all expect to be good in the big moments and we all expect to come through,” said Marchand, who had just a single 5-on-5 assist in the seven game series versus the Blues with two goals and five points overall to go along with a minus-2 rating. “I think personally I definitely have that thought where I would have liked to have been the guy that would be a difference-maker…be better in that situation. That’s how it plays out sometimes.”

Marchand admitted following the series that he was dealing with groin, oblique and hand injuries during the Stanley Cup Final, but it doesn’t sound like any of those things are going to require surgery. So there are no injury excuses here and instead Marchand and his linemates simply didn’t get it done against a big, strong and heavy St. Louis Blues defensemen core.

The question now becomes whether it was simply a bad stretch for Boston’s top line, or if there is a change that needs to come for Marchand, Bergeron and Pastrnak. It sure felt like by the end of the Cup Final that the trio simply didn’t have enough size and strength to get to the front of the net, and needed at least one member of their line that could win more battles with oversized D-men in the scoring areas.

The Bruins top line had the same issues with the big, strong Lightning defensemen corps a year ago as well, and a playbook is certainly there against Marchand, Bergeron and Pastrnak given the right kind of personnel on the back end.

That will be a story for the offseason for the Black and Gold, however. The story this week was about Boston’s best players not being able to get it done when it mattered most, and that most definitely includes Marchand. 

David Pastrnak knows he needs to toughen up>>>

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Celtics easily on your device.

Zdeno Chara thanks fans on Instagram, says Bruins 'will be back'

Zdeno Chara thanks fans on Instagram, says Bruins 'will be back'

Zdeno Chara was one of the biggest stories of the 2019 Stanley Cup Final for the Boston Bruins. In Game 4, Chara suffered a broken jaw after taking a puck to the face. Despite that, he came back to play in Games 5-7 and did everything he could to help the Boston Bruins win.

Unfortunately, the Bruins couldn't come through. They dropped Game 7 of the Cup Final and the St. Louis Bruins became the NHL champions. It was a disappointing end to the season, but it certainly didn't take away from Chara's warrior-like performance that topped the Bruins' laundry list of injuries.

On Sunday, Chara took to Instagram to thank the Bruins fans for their support during the team's playoff run and ended the post with a strong message: "We will be back..."

View this post on Instagram

It’s been only few days, but I can still hear the overwhelming cheers and applause from our fans. I knew we had the best fans ,but I didn’t realized how special and remarkable you are till I stood in front of you before Game 5.It was an unbelievable experience to have your support. I couldn’t help to fight back tears, but so happy to respond to adversity and be there with my teammates. It was unbelievable feeling of pride and honor to be a Bostonian. We as Bruins fell short of our team goal, but we’re so grateful that we made you proud.This group of players and coaches are very special.I can’t say enough about how many times our team responded the right way to adversity and embrace the challenges. We believe in hard work.We treat each other equally and with respect.We trust each other and depend on each other, but mostly we love to play for this community. On behalf of all of the players and from the bottom of my heart, thank you to all of our fans for your support and loyalty this year. We never could have made it this far without you. We will be back...

A post shared by Zdeno Chara (@zeechara33) on

This was a great gesture by the 42-year-old captain and long-time Bruin. It's no surprise that he acknowledged the fan support and in particular, the rousing applause he got before playing in Game 5 with the broken jaw. He truly loves the Boston and fans, and the feeling is mutual.

Chara will return to the Bruins for at least one more season in 2020. He signed a one-year, $2 million extension midway through last season and will try to help the Bruins go on another deep playoff run in 2020.

HAGGERTY: Don't fall in love with this Bruins team>>>

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Celtics easily on your device.