Since Boston Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy told the media Thursday, he expects Charlie McAvoy to better and knows he can be, McAvoy has answered the challenge and been one of the Bruins’ best players in their 4-2 win over the Maple Leafs Friday at Toronto and then in their 3-2 shootout loss to the Washington Capitals Saturday night at TD Garden.
On Friday, McAvoy didn’t register a point but made some pivotal plays and was instrumental in the win, breaking up an Andreas Johnsson breakaway attempt and just being a presence for the Bruins in both zones. He had seven blocked shots and three hits. On Saturday, McAvoy had two assists and held Capitals captain Alexander Ovechkin to just one shot and no points in the loss. He also broke up Ovechkin’s breakaway attempt with just under ten minutes left in regulation and the Bruins still up 2-1 at the time.
Great job by Charlie McAvoy to close in on Alex Ovechkin and break up a prime scoring chance. pic.twitter.com/pwilAKGGAy
— Conor Ryan (@ConorRyan_93) November 17, 2019
Right before the Bruins flew to Toronto Thursday Cassidy told the media that McAvoy still has plenty to offer despite a solid start to his 2019-20 season.
“I think he’s played well, just not to his ceiling.”
McAvoy isn’t exactly cranking Lionel Richie’s classic ‘Dancing On The Ceiling’ now, but he has answered the coach’s call for more and played arguably his two best games of the season and maybe even of his young career. McAvoy was matched up against the likes of John Tavares and Auston Matthews in the win at Toronto Friday night and then took on the assignment of shutting down the greatest goal scorer of the salary cap era, Ovechkin, on Saturday. On Friday against the Leafs, McAvoy 23:24 on ice was second only to his usual blue line partner and Bruins captain Zdeno Chara’s 24:04. On Saturday, he played 23:23 of ice time which was second only to Brad Marchand’s 24:52.
Back on Thursday, Cassidy elaborated on what exactly McAvoy needed to improve and what he was doing well.
“I think he’s got a tough assignment every night playing against the best players,” Cassidy said. “Acknowledged, as a young guy, I think his natural, best ability right now at his age is his puck-moving and ability to join the rush and make some plays. He doesn’t finish, but he’s had some looks. So I think that will balance out, I really do, the more he shoots.
“The defensive side of things, there’s a ways to go for Charlie still because he’s playing against the best players every night. And whether we should put him in that position or not is open to debate, but we feel he can handle it with Zee there as his partner. We got away from it a bit with Grizz, injury happens, so put that on the back burner. But I don’t think Charlie’s unique as a young guy to not be able to come in and defend like a 10-year vet, I think there’s a learning curve. You learn guys’ tendencies, you learn which ice to protect more than others when to go. So that’s how I feel Charlie’s game’s been so far.”
Well, Cassidy was feeling a lot better postgame Saturday.
“He was terrific tonight,” Cassidy said. “Level of competition tends to bring out the best in Charlie — we certainly saw that tonight. We needed it against a heavier group. He took the challenge head on. It’s a tougher game for the [likes of Matt Grzelcyks and Connor Cliftons] of the world. Charlie was good at both ends of the ice. I thought he was excellent.”
Another good sign from McAvoy was that despite his brilliant game, he wasn’t resting on his laurels after the game Saturday, but instead lamenting the loss and to put it bluntly, pissed off the Bruins couldn’t get the two points for goalie Jaro Halak, who stopped 42 Capitals shots. The budding star, whom the Bruins signed to a three-year deal worth $7.3 million during training camp, did acknowledge he was more satisfied with shutting Ovechkin down Saturday than grabbing two helpers but couldn’t hide his passion and frustration.
“I think him ending up with zero is pretty nice,” McAvoy acknowledged. “I can be happy with that. But I’m just pretty pissed off that we kind of pissed away 2 points.”