Bruins

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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Bruins-Flames Talking Points: Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand spark B's after sluggish start

Bruins-Flames Talking Points: Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand spark B's after sluggish start

GOLD STAR: Patrice Bergeron helped the Bruins get back almost by himself after they fell behind by a 2-0 score to the Calgary Flames. Bergeron scored a pair of goals in the first six minutes of the game to withstand the three-goal barrage from the Flames, and now has goals in five consecutive games and seven in his last seven games during a red-hot offensive period.

Bergeron finished with two goals, the plus-1 rating, three shots on net and three takeaways in 15:59 of ice time. He won 13-of-19 face-offs in a dominant showing in pretty much every facet of the game. In other words, it was just another great effort from No. 37 in another win for the Bruins.

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BLACK EYE: No shots, no hits and no anything from Sean Monahan in 19:31 of ice time for the Flames in a nothing performance from one of Calgary’s best players. It was Monahan that failed to tie up  Bergeron on his second goal of the night after a David Pastrnak shot bounced off the end boards with a carom right to Bergeron in front.

Really, it was a team-wide no-show for the Flames after scoring the first three goals in the opening seven minutes of the first period. After that they managed just a handful of shots in the second period before a better third, but they never got another goal past Jaroslav Halak after Brad Marchand's go-ahead goal.

TURNING POINT: The Bruins clearly weren’t ready to go at the start of the game as they allowed a goal 20 seconds into the game and then fell behind by two goals less than three minutes into the first period. Perhaps Halak could have made a better attempt to stop the shot on Calgary’s second goal, but it was still a scorched one-timer on an odd-man rush. The goals allowed were much more about lax defense by the Bruins even if Halak allowed three goals on six shots faced in the first period.

After that, though, the B’s defense tightened up and went into shutdown mode after allowing one more goal in the first period. Once they got through that rough opening few minutes, the Flames offense was held down and the soft Calgary defense was exposed by the Bruins en route to the one-goal win for the Black and Gold.

HONORABLE MENTION: Brad Marchand ended up with the game-winner when he scored the lone goal in the second period after redirecting a Brandon Carlo point shot. Marchand did a nice job of stepping into traffic to redirect the outside shot, but it was also a byproduct of Calgary failing to lift his stick once he got ideal position in front of the net.

Marchand finished with a goal, two points and a plus-1 rating in 18:36 of ice time, had five shots on net and had a hit and a takeaway in a very active game for the entire Perfection Line. Give Marchand and Bergeron credit for refusing to allow the Bruins to lose even after they dropped behind by a couple of goals just minutes into a wild, crazy game out in Calgary.

BY THE NUMBERS: 7 – the number of teams to win a game in NHL history after allowing three goals in the first four minutes of the game. The B’s became that seventh team when they pulled out the 4-3 win in Calgary.  

QUOTE TO NOTE: “I’m a physical player, so those games are comfortable. I’m just trying to help the team win. It was really physical. It was a good game to be a part of for sure.” –Jeremy Lauzon on the night where he got in his first NHL fight with Calgary Flames forward Matthew Tkachuk.

Watch Jeremy Lauzon drop gloves with Matthew Tkachuk for first NHL fight

Watch Jeremy Lauzon drop gloves with Matthew Tkachuk for first NHL fight

Jeremy Lauzon officially has his first NHL fight under his belt.

The 22-year-old tussled with Calgary Flames winger Matthew Tkachuk during the second period of Friday night's game to mark the first bout of his NHL career. Tkachuk certainly gave Lauzon a challenge, but the Boston Bruins defenseman held his own.

Watch below:


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Not a bad first scrap for the B's youngster.

While Tkachuk may have won the fight, Lauzon and the Bruins were the winners in the end as they defeated the Flames 4-3 in a thriller. Boston now has won 11 of its last 12 games.