In a one-on-one interview with Boston Hockey Now on Tuesday, Boston Bruins defenseman Charlie McAvoy admitted that it wasn’t until last March that he realized just how good his teammate and sometimes partner on the Bruins’ blue line, Hampus Lindholm is.
The Boston Bruins lost to Lindholm the Anaheim Ducks 4-3 last March 1, 18 days before they acquired the relatively unknown budding star defenseman, Lindholm on March 19, 2022. While the 6-foot-4, 215-pound mobile defenseman didn’t register a point in 22:06 TOI, he really impressed McAvoy.
“No,” McAvoy replied bluntly if he knew much about Lindholm prior to the 2002 NHL Trade Deadline. “I don’t really follow west coast hockey, I’m in bed when they’re starting, and it’s crazy, they may as well play in a different league, they’re so far out there. So, I knew of him but the biggest thing was when we went out there last season. Before the deadline, we played them in Anaheim and we lost, and he was the best player on the ice I think, and I was like ‘this guy’s really good’ and then we traded for him a month, few months later, whatever it was in that game he played really well, and well, it all worked out really well for us.”
Unfortunately, Lindholm, McAvoy and the Bruins didn’t have a month or few months more to gel last season, as Lindholm missed some games down the stretch and was only able to play in four games during a seven-game series loss to the Carolina Hurricanes in the opening round of the 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs. However, as McAvoy pointed out to BHN on Tuesday, even in that small dose of Lindholm’s presence in the playoffs, he and his teammates could see some ‘special’ in Lindholm.
“I think maybe it was just a feeling out, you come to a new team and you’re trying to find out where you are and that, and learn the culture,” Charlie McAvoy pointed out. “Then he gets hurt in the Carolina series, which was tough, and yeah I really think it wasn’t like. …you saw glimpses of him being great, and we knew we had a really special player, and this year he just took off right from the get-go. You were able to see it right away and you just knew that he was going to special.”
So far, it appears that Boston Bruins general manager Don Sweeney pulled off heist when he sent a 2022 first round pick, a 2023 second round pick, a 2024 second round pick, and defensemen Urho Vaakanainen and John Moore in exchange for Hampus Lindholm, with the Ducks retaining 50 percent of his salary for cap hit at that point. Sweeney immediately signed Lindholm to an eight-year, $52 million ($6.5M AAV), contract, and as far as McAvoy is concerned, it’s been an ‘amazing’ signing for Sweeney.
Through 43 games played this season, Lindholm has five goals and 24 assists and is a +29. The 28-year-old rearguard is an early Norris Trophy candidate and a huge reason the Boston Bruins had an historic first half of this 2022-23 regular season.
“It’s been amazing; he’s an unbelievable defenseman,” McAvoy replied. “I’m able to talk about stuff. I’m definitely able to watch him and learn from him, and see what he does. It’s really meant a lot to our d-corps. I mean, we’ve been playing so well as a team collectively and I think he’s definitely a big part of that. You bring him into the fold here and here’s another guy that can play 25 minutes; can play special teams, and he can do it all in every situation he’s in, and he’s going to be responsible in every aspect of the game.”
Lindholm’s presence on the Bruins’ blue line has given the Bruins plenty of different looks to throw at their opponents.
“Yeah, absolutely,” McAvoy said when asked about the different options it gives Boston Bruins head coach Jim Montgomery every game. “I think it gives us a chance playing me and Gryzz, or him with ‘Brando’ [Brandon Carlo], really move any of them around. I think it just makes us six deep.”
Lindholm and being six deep on the blue line are two of the major reasons why the Boston Bruins are currently the odds-on favorite to win the Stanley Cup.