(Photo Credit: Dan Hamilton / USA TODAY Sports)

By: Jason Cooke | Follow me on Twitter / X @cookejournalism

Haphazard zone entries. Lack of rubber on the cage. Depleted urgency. If you watched the Boston Bruins’ power play at any point throughout the 2023-24 season, those sentiments echo nails on a chalkboard. While the Bruins’ man advantage wasn’t bad, it wasn’t good, either–and its flaws were as glaring as ever in the postseason.

Amid their Game Six rout at the hands of the Florida Panthers in the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, the B’s power play was an uninspiring 1-for-16. That’s simply not enough to compete on the biggest stage, squandering a handful of opportunities in crucial moments that ultimately left them ousted.

But it wasn’t all bad. The Bruins posted a 22.2 success rate—good for 14th in the league—in the regular season. And despite their poor effort against Florida, a strong showing against the Toronto Maple Leafs in the first round still left them with a 21.2 percentage. Not bad, but certainly not great. For comparison, the Tampa Bay Lightning boasted the best clip this season at 28.6 percent. So what does it take for Boston to upgrade an average part of their game to the next level?

Evaluate Charlie McAvoy’s Role on the Power Play

This may be surprising, but McAvoy was fairly unimpressive on Boston’s man advantage this season. His pure skill is undeniable. He’s clearly Jim Montgomery’s most offensively equipped blueliner, showcasing his soft hands and elusiveness with the puck regularly. However, he’s had his flaws on the power play, and it may be time to admit he isn’t suited to quarterback the top unit.

McAvoy’s woes were hard to miss this season. He’s struggled with shooting the puck from the point, but his most glaring mishaps have resulted from turnovers and subsequent lack of hustle. In an April regular season matchup with the Pittsburgh Penguins, McAvoy’s shortcomings were on full display.

After mishandling a pass from Brad Marchand, he proceeds to wave at the loose puck with one hand before losing a streaking Drew O’Connor behind him. Instead of racing back to catch him, McAvoy glides into the defensive zone as O’Connor roofs a snap shot past Linus Ullmark.

That wasn’t the only sequence where McAvoy put forth a disheartening effort. In an earlier season contest with the Tampa Bay Lightning, McAvoy lost a puck battle while attempting to retrieve a puck. He then left the front of the net, leaving an uncovered attacker for a grade-A opportunity on the doorstep. It’s a play that just can’t happen when you have an extra attacker. Granted, McAvoy wasn’t the only Bruin held accountable for the turnover—but his role was at the nucleus.

According to JFresh analytics, McAvoy’s power play percentage falls in the 19th percentile of qualified skaters, a statistic that measures a certain player’s impact on goals for when they are on the ice. That’s a low number. Now that’s not to say his services aren’t qualified for his current role. Because they are. McAvoy is a smart player with great vision, and he’s shown it time and time again positioned in his role on the top of the setup.

It’s all about ironing out the wrinkles. With his pure skill and the chances he takes to execute, mistakes are bound to happen. It’s the bad that comes with the good for many talented players in the National Hockey League.

But when that bad starts to overshadow the good, Montgomery is tasked with a predicament. He even acted on those thoughts this season, moving McAvoy to the second unit following his lackluster effort in the Pittsburgh goal shown above. Throughout the postseason, Montgomery practically rolled out two top units, or “1A” and “1B”. And it seemed to light a spark. When the 2024-25 season rolls around, it may be in Montgomery’s best interest to keep a short leash with McAvoy–and possibly remove him from the first unit altogether.