McAvoy finding his game after a bit of a ragged training camp

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McAvoy finding his game after a bit of a ragged training camp

It wasn’t an ideal start to the season for young defenseman Charlie McAvoy, but it looks like things are getting on track for him.

McAvoy suffered through illness while on the trip to China that kind of knocked him off kilter for the majority of training camp, and he started the season as a minus player in the opening night debacle in Washington. Even in the second game against the Sabres, McAvoy missed a handful of shifts after taking a shot off the foot that luckily didn’t sideline him for any longer than a portion of a period.

But the 20-year-old busted out in the home opening win over the Senators with a career-high three assists, and now has four helpers in three games along with a plus-2 rating while averaging 20:54 of ice time per game.

Those are exactly the kind of numbers the Bruins hope and expect to see from McAvoy as he keeps evolving in his second NHL season. For the player himself, McAvoy is finally entering his comfort zone after a preseason and training camp that felt anything but comfortable for a young player preparing for the season.

“Obviously, you set out to be perfect and you want to stick to the things that make you good. I think we did that [against Ottawa] in certain areas. Still you don’t want to give up a couple of the goals we gave up, the one that happened with four guys out there, just avoidable things like that,” said McAvoy. “At the end we score a goal and were playing well and there’s only a couple minutes left and then they got one again.


“We just kind of straighten out a few things and we could be even better. It’s something to feel good about no question when you go against a team like that that has played well in their first two games, definitely showed they can score, you come up on the right side of that one. It definitely feels good.”

It was “really simple plays” and tipped point shots that made up McAvoy’s three-assist game against the Senators, and those are exactly the kind of simple, smart passes and playmaking that Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy wants to see in McAvoy’s game.

“I thought Charlie was much better [against Buffalo]. He was off to a slow start, and some of that was that he didn’t feel great in China,” said Cassidy. “He didn’t get a lot of reps. I expect Charlie is going to be a very solid player every night and that he’s going to find his game quickly.

“He’s got a lot of price and he’s a good player, so it’s just a matter of keeping the focus on the task at hand and being ready to go when the puck drops. That’s the challenge for a lot of good, young players.”

McAvoy is going to play a ton of minutes in a workhorse role, and simply needs to make good, strong decisions when he’s on the ice, and those will lead to offense more often than not. That kind of game started flowing on Monday afternoon in the win over Ottawa, and there’s no reason to think it’s going to stop anytime soon.  


Brandon Carlo, Charlie McAvoy make their preseason debuts tonight after brief holdouts

Brandon Carlo, Charlie McAvoy make their preseason debuts tonight after brief holdouts

BRIGHTON, Mass – It didn’t take long for young D-men Brandon Carlo and Charlie McAvoy to get back into the flow after their brief holdouts. Both youngsters will suit up for their first action of the preseason on Saturday night as both Carlo and McAvoy will be in the Bruins lineup when they headed to the United Center to take on the Chicago Blackhawks on Saturday night.

Both players only missed a handful of practices at the beginning of camp before signing their respective second NHL contracts, and needless to say they are excited to get back into the swing of things.

“I’m looking forward to it,” said McAvoy. “It really doesn’t take long to get back into the flow and into the routine of coming to the rink every day, going about your business and doing the things you do. Then you start feeling comfortable and getting back. I’m excited to get back on the road with the guys. There’s a couple of new faces, so you get to meet new guys and play with new guys. It’s fun. I’m excited to see if I can get some chemistry with some guys tonight.”

Certainly the appearance of both McAvoy and Carlo on the game roster so quickly also speaks to the excellent shape they arrived in training camp ready to hit the ice running. 

Bruce Cassidy indicated that Saturday night will probably mark the end of training camp for a number of players with expected to come in the 24-48 hours following the exhibition game in Chicago. It makes perfect sense timing-wise given that the Bruins coaching staff wanted to give their veteran core time to ease into things over the first 10 days of training camp, and Providence Bruins training camp begins on Monday with a number of players headed to Rhode Island as the first round of camp cuts begin to take shape.

Here's the roster of players headed to Chicago for Saturday night’s game, which will be the final appearance in NHL training camp for a number of these players:

Forwards: Anders Bjork, Par Lindholm, Brett Ritchie, Jakub Lauko, Trent Frederic, Karson Kuhlman, Paul Carey, Oskar Steen, Ryan Fitzgerald, Brendan Gaunce, Pavel Shen, Peter Cehlarik, Samuel Asselin

Defensemen: Charlie McAvoy, Brandon Carlo, Matt Grzelcyk, Steven Kampfer, Jakub Zboril, Wiley Sherman, Cooper Zech

Goaltenders: Maxime Lagace, Kyle Keyser, Dan Vladar

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Bruins focusing on improving 5-on-5 offense this season

Bruins focusing on improving 5-on-5 offense this season

BRIGHTON, Mass – The Bruins finished 11th in scoring in the NHL last season at 3.13 goals per game and obviously had enough offense to get all the way to Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final. 

They have three top-flight forwards on the "Perfection Line" with Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron and David Pastrnak all topping 30 goals for the second season in a row and boast one of the NHL’s best power plays that can overwhelm teams with lesser special teams’ groups.

But therein lies the rub.

Only Tampa Bay and Florida scored more power-play goals than the Bruins last season, who were successful 25.9 percent of the time on the man-advantage last season with the top unit of Torey Krug, Bergeron, Marchand, Pastrnak and Jake DeBrusk/David Backes accounting for most of the special teams’ offense.

That left the Bruins in the bottom third of the NHL in terms of even-strength offense with a big-time dependence on the power play.

“You’ve got to take offense where you can get it,” said Patrice Bergeron, who was third on the Bruins with nine power-play goals and had 27 PP points last season. “If you’re winning games and the power play is your source of offense then I don’t think it’s a bad thing. You’ve got to find other ways to create some more offense in other ways, but to me, it’s not a huge problem. We have the ability to find that [offense] and it’s about tweaking a few things to find that [5-on-5] offense to score goals in different ways.”

It wasn’t much an issue during the regular season where the Bruins steamrolled most teams on the power play, and it obviously never became a fatal flaw in the first three rounds of the playoffs.

Still, the Bruins ran into a roadblock in the Cup Final against a St. Louis Blues team that dominated in 5-on-5 play and managed to make it less of a special teams contest in the seven-game series. Bergeron, Marchand and Pastrnak were bottled up for just two goals and five points combined in the seven games and were far from living up to their line's nickname.

Certainly it’s something the B’s recognize could be much improved heading into a new season.

“You see it when you’re not scoring. It’s because you’re forcing players and you’re not getting to the inside. We got into trouble a few times, especially in the playoffs probably where we stayed to the outside,” said Bergeron. “The play dies down because other teams are retreating to the box or retreating to the house, and then they don’t give you those cross-seams [to pass] that you see sometimes earlier in the year.

“It’s moving your feet and competing around the net, and getting there and wanting to impose your will to get those rebounds. You bring it on net and if you don’t get it on the first try then there’s somebody around the net creating some havoc. It’s easy hockey and we’ve seen it so many times, but at the same time it’s pretty effective.”

With that in mind, the Bruins are using some of their training camp focus to improve their even-strength offense.

Some of it will be improved by Charlie Coyle’s presence as the third-line center from the very start of the season. There will be more diversity in the offense up front and that should mean things will be a little more spread out with a deep team that can advantage of that against opponents.

But there are also adjustments to be made across the lineup and that’s something the Bruins are working on while getting the offensive and defensive systems down pat in camp.

“I think as a team once we pare down [our roster] we’re going to be looking at ways of generating more chances 5-on-5 in the offensive zone. I think that’s our Boston Bruins focus once we get our team together a little more,” said coach Bruce Cassidy, of the systems work in camp that started with the defensive basics before branching out to the offense. “The easiest way is to sacrifice defense and we don’t want to do that, right? So, that one is out the window. That’s the first thing we discuss so we don’t see it happening.

“It’s getting our D involved more and getting active, and encouraging them to do that. It brings risk into play, but this group coming back has been together and they know what we want. So we should be able to grow it in their game as they come back and build chemistry.  And shooting more. Funneling a few more pucks and some off-angle shots so everybody knows that it’s going there. It’s easier said than done. We want players to retain their creativity, so it’s a balance. But it’s something that we’ve talked about. Those are the two areas of what we could do with the forwards and with the defense, and hopefully, that translates into a little more action around the net.”

Will it actually translate into more even-strength offense for the Bruins?

The hope is that some tweaks will spark a little more offense out of a team with plenty of skill and scoring ability. But the Bruins would also greatly benefit from one more player developing into a top-six right wing capable of finishing off plays created by David Krejci on the second line.

It doesn’t appear that player is currently on Boston’s roster.

Still, at least the Bruins know that it’s an issue and are taking steps to address it early on where it could lead to improvements.

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