( Above Photo Credit: MassLive )
By: Thomas Nystrom Follow Me On Twitter @nahstrom
As we sit here in the midst of this awful ‘bye week’, I feel it’s a good time to step away from the persistent sense of pessimism surrounding the team on social media and many call-in shows. Outside of the fact that the Boston Bruins have been one of the hottest teams since mid-December. Despite the scoring tear that the forwards have been on. Regardless of the ONE loss (in overtime no less) coming on the second night of a double-header in which the team traveled overnight to play the defending Stanley Cup Champions. And even though we’ve gotten a stretch of spectacular play in goal.. the negativity has rained down this week from fans that quite frankly aren’t looking at the big picture.
In almost every way, Boston is a “what are you doing for me NOW” sports city. Even a shot of optimism is typically chased with a little negativity. I suppose it’s just our own way of self-regulating the balance of our fandom. As such, the team and it’s players (cough, Tuukka, cough) are magnets for criticism from fans unwilling to look past one bad night — but are supremely capable of referencing someone’s lack of production in October. We are all at least acutely aware that there was an air of “we’re not going anywhere” heading into the 2017-2018 season with the exception of a few young budding superstars.
One of those exceptions being twenty years old, Charlie McAvoy.
‘Causeway Charlie’ broke into the consciousness of Bruins fans with an excellent showing in the playoffs just last year and came into camp with a mountain of expectations placed on him by the Boston media and fans. There was optimism for the kid, more than we’ve seen for any rookie in recent memory.. and still, the tired old hat of Boston pessimism crept in. Can he do what we think he can do for a full regular season? Was his breakout against Ottawa just on adrenaline and excitement that he had ‘made it’? Has even ‘made it’ yet?
Allow me to settle your worried minds: Charlie McAvoy has ‘made it.’
This kid is for real, and a defensive piece that the organization can stick on their blue line and build around for a decade. There was a desire just a few short weeks ago just to find something in his game that he may lack: his unwillingness at times to take a shot. He’s shooting, folks. Through the first twenty games, he registered 31 shots on goal, two of them finding twine. Since then, in the last twenty, he’s only managed 16 SOG, however, has gotten himself another three goals. If anything he has been more selective and productive with his shots and we’re all seeing the results come through on the scoresheet. He’s snuck into the top 10 for shooting percentage for the team. Charlie’s 21 points are good for 7th on the team, including being 6th in assists, and his +/- is 4th best on the team at this point in the season. All of this mind you is with arguably the best first line in hockey: Bergeron, Marchand, and Pastrnak who have been collecting points at an unbelievable pace. McAvoy will shoot more if that’s what the coaching staff requests. They are clearly already asking a lot of him as heading into this bye week his on-ice time average of 22:54 is only bested by Zdeno Chara’s 23:20 per game.
Rather than thinking the worse about this team after an overtime loss on the road, we should be focusing on the immense positives surrounding the Boston Bruins right now. McAvoy is well on his way to elite production on the professional level, having already being acknowledged as an alternate in the upcoming all-star game. The production the coaching staff is getting out of a number of kids, and a reliable core of NHL veterans is something that should light up Causeway like is hasn’t seen in the last few seasons. And despite all of the injuries and growing pains you’d expect early in the season, here the Bruins sit. Tied for third in the conference with Columbus who have played 4 games more than Boston. The Bruins have a top-five win percentage, and they’re still in the midst of an amazing point streak dating back to their last regulation loss on December 14th coming against Washington. This group of guys have shown that they have what it takes to be special.
The entire league is starting to take notice of Boston’s surge and certainly has been exposed to the talents of Charlie McAvoy beyond his player of the game honors in his gold-medal World Juniors victory barely a year ago. Perhaps it’s time that we take a step back and enjoy this season and players like him, Danton Heinen, and even Anton Khudobin has been nothing short of spectacular to watch while spelling Rask who has also recently returned to an elite level of play. The first line is downright special. Even Chara has seemingly reinvented his game when some questioned if he was done.
The truest sense of pleasure for me thus far in the season comes from this: The same prognosticators who looked at this team and questioned if they could sneak into the playoffs as even a lowly seed are now making ‘cute’ predictions for a team that they all of a sudden see in contention to truly compete for a conference championship.
And guess what. They can, and they just might.
Thomas Nyström, Contributor.
Follow me on Twitter @nahstrom