McAvoy takes blame in bad loss at Pittsburgh: "I've got to be better for the team"

McAvoy takes blame in bad loss at Pittsburgh: "I've got to be better for the team"

PITTSBURGH — It would appear that patience is beginning to wear thin on the season-long performance of Charlie McAvoy.

Ahead of his third NHL season, the 22-year-old defenseman was picked by some to be a Norris Trophy winner. He was given a three-year bridge contract toward a much bigger deal, based on the expectation he’d quickly develop into a No. 1 defenseman. 

But it’s been a fitful year of development for McAvoy. He’s still searching for his first goal of the season headed into next week’s NHL All-Star break, and he’s been a minus player for the month of January.

Things came to a bit of a head Sunday afternoon in Pittsburgh. McAvoy was at the center of the Penguins' third period game-winning play that made a 4-3 comeback win. Evgeni Malkin neutralized a hesitating McAvoy with a big hit, stripped the puck away from before he could outlet it to Sean Kuraly or Zdeno Chara, and then fed to Bryan Rust in front for the game-winner.

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McAvoy was quietly accountable following the game, and knew exactly where he’d gone wrong.

“I got it and I was trying to make a reverse play to [Kuraly]. There are good players in this league. They made a good play. I’ve got to be stronger on the puck,” said McAvoy. “I was trying to make a puck possession play. I’ll have to look at it and get better from it, but it obviously hurt us.

“It’s frustrating. From an overall game I was feeling good and liking my game, but then it’s tough to give up a play like that and feel good about it. I’ve got to be better for the team and for [Jaroslav] Halak.”

McAvoy was in the middle of another scoring play for the Penguins when Sidney Crosby made a highlight-reel, backhanded and between-the-legs dish to Teddy Blueger for a second period goal. McAvoy was a half-second late getting to the front of the net to stop the play. He wasn’t the only one playing poorly on Sunday; John Moore didn’t play too much after Crosby fended him off behind the Boston net to set up the Pens' first goal.

Cassidy called the plays “gifts”. He seemed to be challenging McAvoy in particular in his post-game comments.

“We get beat off the wall on the first wall and the [game-winner] I can’t tell you what happened to be honest with you," Cassidy said. "It’s a rimmed puck that the goalie needs to get out and stop and the D need to communicate. You need to make a play. You can’t turn the puck over there. 

"There is too much of that going on. Guys that have offensive ability have to start playing to their strength a little bit more on the back end. Or we have to seriously consider what kind of D-corps do we want.

“We’re supposed to be mobile, we’re supposed to be able to move pucks, break pucks out and add to our offense. Right now, that’s a challenge for us.”

The good news is that McAvoy and the Bruins have just one more game, and then they will get 10 days to hit the reset button, thanks to the All-Star break. Perhaps that’s what McAvoy needs to get his game back on track, after a first half where he did some good things while learning his trade as a No. 1 D-man. He leads the Bruins in ice time (23:12 per game) and blocked shots, often getting matched up against the other team’s best offensive players.

But McAvoy has also very consistently played below his talent level. He's a gifted two-way defenseman capable of doing just about anything, and one who many believed was going to have a breakout NHL season. That hasn’t happened yet.

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NHL rumors: Execs view Bruins, Avalanche as fits for a Joe Thornton trade

NHL rumors: Execs view Bruins, Avalanche as fits for a Joe Thornton trade

Joe Thornton is one of the best players in NHL history who hasn't won a Stanley Cup, but will he choose to chase that elusive ring and ask for a move before Monday's NHL trade deadline?

Thornton has played more than 15 years for the San Jose Sharks after the Boston Bruins traded him to the West Coast during the 2005-06 season. The Sharks have been one of the league's winningest teams during the regular season with Thornton, but playoff success has largely escaped them. They've reached the Stanley Cup Final only once during his tenure in San Jose, and the Sharks lost that series to the Pittsburgh Penguins in six games four years ago.

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Thornton is 40 years old and in the final year of his contract. If there was a time to pursue a Stanley Cup title with a contender, it's right now. So, if he does want a trade, which teams make sense for the veteran center? Bruce Garrioch of the Ottawa Sun spoke to multiple executives around the league who shared their thoughts on the best fits for Thornton.

He has a full “no move” clause, but the Sharks would like to give him the opportunity to win a Stanley Cup. If he’s going to be dealt, then league executives believe he’ll only go to a team that has a chance to win, so the Colorado Avalanche and Boston Bruins are both viewed as good fits.

Thornton coming back to Boston, the place he began his Hall of Fame career, and winning a Stanley Cup with the Bruins would be an amazing story. 

From a hockey fit perspective, Thornton would be a good bottom-six addition for the Bruins, but only if another move for a goal-scorer was made ahead of the deadline. Thornton alone isn't going to make the Bruins a much-improved team. He's no longer an elite offensive player, and he hasn't hit the 20-goal mark since 2010-11. Thornton is still a decent playmaker and effective on the power play, but the Bruins need secondary goal scoring behind the Perfection Line. A player like New York Rangers winger Chris Kreider would best address this concern, and TSN reported Tuesday that the Bruins and Avalanche have emerged as frontrunners for a Kreider trade.

Kreider and Thornton would be a nice haul for the B's and help give them a strong chance to beat the Tampa Bay Lightning, Pittsburgh Penguins and Washington Capitals in the playoffs. All three of these teams have made trades over the last two weeks to bolster their rosters for the postseason.

Being traded to a contender doesn't always work for players in Thornton's position, and Jarome Iginla in 2013 is among the best recent examples. But Thornton absolutely deserves a chance, and the Bruins arguably are best-positioned of any team to win the Stanley Cup this spring.

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NHL Rumors: Did Devils GM hint at wanting to acquire a defenseman?

NHL Rumors: Did Devils GM hint at wanting to acquire a defenseman?

The Boston Bruins have been linked to New Jersey Devils forward Kyle Palmieri for a while now.

However, the Devils don't appear eager to trade their veteran top scorer at the deadline. Still, if Bruins GM Don Sweeney gives the Devils an offer they can't refuse, then Palmieri very well could suit up on David Krejci's right wing.

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What would it take to land Palmieri? Well, our Bruins Insider Joe Haggerty noted that he could be had for a first-round pick, a young cost-controlled player such as Anders Bjork, and a top-notch prospect. Devils interim GM Tom Fitzgerald had some interesting things to say regarding how his organization would approach the trade deadline.

"We've all underperformed this year. We're in this sell mode right now because of our Octobers, Novembers, Decembers and January. So, there's not one player that feels really good about what the season looks like. Underperforming is really where we're at that drove this situation," Fitzgerald said on SiriusXM's NHL Network. "Certain players, I believe, they will get better. I believe that they can find their games and get it back to where it's normal. We don't need P.K. Subban being a 25-minute-a-night guy. We need to find support for him so he can play at his best -at minutes that will allow him to do what he does well."

Did Fitzgerald just hint at the Devils wanting to acquire a defenseman at the deadline? Maybe. If so, the B's have plenty of defensemen they could send to New Jersey. For example, John Moore, at this point, has been expendable for the Bruins. Prospects such as Jakub Zboril and Urho Vaakanainen may be able to improve New Jersey's defensive situation and ease the life of Subban.

While it's just speculation, it would make some sense considering the Devils traded defenseman Andy Greene to the New York Islanders in exchange for a defensive prospect and Blake Coleman to the Tampa Bay Lightning for an offensive prospect and first-round pick over the weekend.

If the Bruins were to land Palmieri, the Devils would acquire some pretty solid assets in return.