Bruins

Injuries may prevent Bruins' Charlie McAvoy from getting paid the way he'd hoped

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Injuries may prevent Bruins' Charlie McAvoy from getting paid the way he'd hoped

SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- When the Bruins take the ice tomorrow for the Winter Classic at Notre Dame Stadium, it doesn't appear Charlie McAvoy will be out there with them.

McAvoy -- who missed 20 games with a concussion this season after sitting out 19 last year due to a heart procedure and then a knee injury -- suffered a lower-body injury while blocking a shot against Nashville on Dec. 22. He played the next night at Carolina, then was placed on injured reserve and sat out the following two games as the problem lingered. He traveled here with the team but was unable to practice either Sunday or Monday. Coach Bruce Cassidy had said Sunday that if McAvoy didn't practice Monday "it isn't looking good" for him playing against the Blackhawks tomorrow. If he does indeed sit out the Winter Classic, it will be the 23rd game he's missed in 2018-19.

It’s still too early in his career to call the injuries and missed games a pattern, but it’s beginning to become noticeable that McAvoy is having a hard time staying on the ice.

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Some things, like the heart condition and subsequent procedure, are impossible to avoid. And to his credit, McAvoy did come back from the knee injury in time for last season’s two-round playoff run through Toronto and Tampa Bay.

Still, for McAvoy to become the No. 1 defenseman he seems capable of becoming, he can't miss pockets of time each and every season. Drew Doughty, a Norris Trophy-winning defenseman to whom McAvoy has been compared, has played the full 82-game schedule five times in his career and has never missed more than six games in any season that he’s played for the Kings over the last decade.

Some of that certainly is good luck; Doughty has been fortunate to avoid serious injury despite not shying away from contact. Some of that, though, might be a matter of getting used to playing through pain.

Only McAvoy and the Bruins medical staff know when he’s 100 percent, and only a player knows when he’s feeling well enough to play after a concussion. Injuries are often nobody’s fault and can heal slowly even though urgency is the name of the game at the NHL level.

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But if he doesn't find a way to stay on the ice, it’s difficult to see McAvoy getting the massive second contract that once seemed inevitable. As it stands now, McAvoy won't be able to command an eight-year, $60 million contract like the one signed by Aaron Ekblad, or even the six-year, $34.5 million deal Dougie Hamilton received. There are still too many questions to answer. The Bruins can’t sign a young player to an exorbitant contract like that when he’s frequently injured, and when there's still much to prove even when he’s out there.

The Bruins and McAvoy could certainly find middle ground on a shorter bridge deal with his rookie contract coming to an end at the close of this season. And maybe there’s still time -- if he gets back and stays in the lineup, has a monster second half, and amps up the playmaking and physicality skills he's flashed when healthy -- for him to prove he deserves the contract that will push him into that top echelon of young defensemen.

But right now the Bruins can’t give McAvoy his big payday. Not until they see him consistently on the ice earning it.

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Talking Points from the Bruins' 3-2 shootout loss to the Capitals

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Talking Points from the Bruins' 3-2 shootout loss to the Capitals

Talking points from Saturday's 3-2 shootout loss to the Capitals at TD Garden . . . 

GOLD STAR: The Bruins wouldn’t have even received a point in Saturday night’s game if it weren’t for the efforts of Jaroslav Halak. The B’s netminder stopped 42 shots and was brilliant from beginning to end against a Capitals team that outshot Boston nearly 2-to-1 through the course of the entire game. He stopped 17-of-18 in the first period when the Bruins didn’t have their legs under them, and would have stolen the game for Boston if Zdeno Chara could have cleared the zone ahead of T.J. Oshie’s game-tying in the final minute of the third period. He was just as good in the shootout, with diving stops that kept the Bruins in the extra session, and certainly deserved a better fate at the end of the day.

🏒 HIGHLIGHTS FROM BRUINS' 3-2 LOSS TO CAPITALS

BLACK EYE: It’s time for Bruce Cassidy to stop over-thinking the shootout. He tried to use Chris Wagner based on a pretty good breakaway move he’s showed at times, and the thinking there was that perhaps an outside-the-box choice work create a shootout spark for the Bruins. Well, it has not, and instead Charlie Coyle is the only player that’s had success in the shootout this season for the Bruins, who are now 0-for-4 in shootout games. They need to go with a much more straight-ahead shootout philosophy, where they just get their best offensive guys out there quickly. That means having Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak as two of your top three guys to start, and perhaps featuring Coyle more now that he’s enjoyed some success. One thing is certain: They need to do something differently, because whatever they’re doing right now isn’t working.

TURNING POINT: The Bruins were hanging on by a thread while protecting the one-goal lead in the third period, and were outshot by an 11-6 margin by Washington while they put a ton of pressure on the Boston defense. Jaroslav Halak was up to the challenge for most of the period and the Bruins had a couple of chances to extend the lead, including a David Krejci redirect that went through Braden Holtby’s pads and trickled past the net, but the undermanned Bruins simply ran out of gas when it came to holding their slim lead. With the Bruins missing their best defender in Patrice Bergeron due to injury, T.J. Oshie scored the game-tying goal with a little less than a minute left to play with Sean Kuraly out on the ice with Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak. That’s not the ideal shutdown forward crew for the Bruins and it came back to bite them in the end.  

HONORABLE MENTION: David Pastrnak was one of the few Bruins playing with some energy throughout the game, and he scored what looked like was going to be the winning goal a few minutes into the second period. Pastrnak had a monster shift where he kicked things off for David Krejci and Charlie McAvoy to connect for a scoring chance, but McAvoy missed the open net with a one-timer shot from the slot. Pastrnak alertly picked up the puck and fired a bad angle shot for his 17th goal of the season. He was a key piece of offense with the Bruins missing so much of their firepower between Bergeron, Torey Krug and Jake DeBrusk. Pastrnak finished with the goal, 10 shot attempts and a couple of takeaways in 22:58 of ice time for the Black and Gold.

BY THE NUMBERS: 0-for-4 – The Bruins’ record in the shootout this season. They continue to lose vital points in the glorified skills challenge, with only Coyle seemingly enjoying any success.

QUOTE TO NOTE: “He was our best player by far. [It’s] disappointing that we couldn’t finish it because I thought our third period, we really bought into what we needed to compared to the Florida game, for example. We didn’t give up much at all [at the end of the game].” –Bruce Cassidy, on Halak and the improved third period for the Bruins, compared to their collapse against the Panthers a few days ago.

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NHL Highlights: Bruins surrender late lead vs. Capitals, lose 3-2 in shootout

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NHL Highlights: Bruins surrender late lead vs. Capitals, lose 3-2 in shootout

FINAL SCORE: Capitals 3, Bruins 2 (SO)

IN BRIEF: Just when it looked like the Bruins were going to hold on, despite being outshot by a nearly 2-to-1 margin losing another important piece in Patrice Bergeron, the Bruins surrendered a game-tying goal in the last minute of regulation from the Capitals' T.J. Oshie. Braeden Holtby denied Chris Wagner's five-hole attempt in the fifth round of the shootout to steal an 11th-hour comeback win.

BOX SCORE

BRUINS RECORD: 12-3-5 (28 points)

HIGHLIGHTS

COYLE PUTS HOME A BEAUTIFUL HEINEN FEED

PASTRNAK STICKS WITH IT, MAKES IT 2-1

UP NEXT: at New Jersey, 7 p.m., NESN

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