Of all the rookies to don the Black and Gold this season, Charlie McAvoy by far and away is making the most noise.
Picking up right where he left off from his debut in the first round series against the Ottawa Senators in the spring, McAvoy has solidified himself as Zdeno Chara’s defensive partner on the Bruins’ top defensive pairing. A tall task (no pun intended) for any rookie, let alone a 19-year-old who is also a few months removed from his swan song just blocks away at Boston University.
As the mounting injuries have put Bruce Cassidy in a tough spot, the Bruins bench boss knows he has one reliable youngster to count on for a nightly basis.
On Wednesday night against the white-hot Tampa Bay Lightning, he used McAvoy – a lot. The 2014 first round pick ended with a game-high 28:11 against the likes of Steven Stamkos and Nikita Kucherov and more than held his own.
“When you get out and you see how much played on a night like tonight, I actually thought that I didn’t play that many minutes,” McAvoy said following the Bruins’ 3-2 win over the Lightning at TD Garden. “It’s something that I take great pride in to see that the coaches have trust in you like that.”
The calm, cool and collective McAvoy made the most of his ice time in front of an NBCSN ‘Wednesday Night Rivalry’ audience.
Whether it’s showing off his offensive prowess or standing his ground against some of the league’s best such as Connor McDavid or Sidney Crosby, McAvoy has more than held his own for a Bruins team desperately looking to find traction with results as some of the players heal from their wounds.
McAvoy, Chara and the Bruins top line of a returning Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron and David Pastrnak faced their toughest task of the year on Wednesday night: going up against the Lightning’s top trio of Vladislav Namestikov, Stamkos and Kucherov. Though Kucherov fed Stamkos for his patented one-timer on a pretty looking play during a power play at 2:10 of the third, McAvoy and company held the top line to four shots on goal and forced Bolts coach Jon Cooper to split his top line up as they entered desperation mode in the second and third periods.
“They’re hard to contain,” McAvoy said about containing the Bolts top line, specifically the league’s two leading scorers in Kucherov and Stamkos.
“You need to kind of damage control their opportunities. They’re going to get their chances like they did on that power play – they make plays and they have unbelievable skill. So it’s really about minimizing those opportunities and we were able to not give them too many looks tonight.”
McAvoy, however, had a few looks of his own on the offensive end.
In addition to his tough defensive duties, McAvoy shined on both ends of the ice that included his first period goal at 7:27 – his third of the season – and his secondary assist on Torey Krug’s fourth of the season at 5:59 of the second.
“He’s getting it. He’s getting a good look [at the best],” Cassidy said about McAvoy’s composure versus some of the NHL’s marquee players. “Brandon [Carlo] got some of it last year, and it’s only going to make them better if they can succeed playing through it, and he has – brought some offense tonight as well.”
“He’s a special player,” Cassidy added about McAvoy. “We don’t want to put too much on him. We asked a lot from him tonight and we know it’s going to happen from time to time, but that stuff doesn’t bother him and he wants those situations.”
Those situations, like his ice time and the assignments against the top talent in the league, are spiking McAvoy’s development. To think that he’s only going to get better is the scary part.