What’s Next For Bruins Austin Czarnik?

cutPhoto: nhl.com

By Thomas Nyström | Follow on twitter @nahstrom

Twenty-five-year-old Austin Czarnik has seen his share of I-95 in his young career. Having signed a one-year two-way contract on July 17, 2017, Czarnik knew what he would likely be asked to do — and to his credit, he has handled his role in the organization with class as well as production. In his 10 games with Boston this season he has 4 points off of 4 assists. During his most recent call-up in early February, he registered two assists in a total of 43:21 of ice time thru 59 shifts in games against Toronto, Detroit, New York Rangers, and Buffalo. His short stay with Boston ended with a -1 rating for the stretch. Comparatively, Czarnik has played 44 games thus far in Providence this season with 14 goals, 33 assists for a +/- rating of +20.

Czarnik has benefited greatly from stable playing time at the AHL level and therefore has been serviceable in his NHL call-ups. His value is arguably higher than ever, and the 5’9 C/RW will likely make himself more on his next contract than the $675,000 he’s currently signed for. An RFA at year’s end, Czarnik is out of options for his two-way deal this season, and the acquisitions at the deadline of Rick Nash and Tommy Wingels will certainly play into whether or he see’s another call-up this year.

Should Czarnik resign with the organization this off-season there is a good chance he cracks the Bruins’ top nine, the question is for how long. There are other center prospects in the pipeline with arguably higher ceilings such as Ryan Fitzgerald and Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson both of whom are younger and likely to get NHL minutes. Behind that comes even more prospects at the position worth a good look such as Ryan Donato who will almost certainly see time in Boston next season.

Though a longshot at this point, Jack Studnicka has been lighting it up in the OHL for the Oshawa Generals to the tune of 60 points in 58 appearances this season. The 19-year-old will likely see Providence time at the very least. Trent Frederic was a piece the Bruins didn’t want to move at the deadline. This doesn’t even include the wingers in the system as Czarnik has also lined up at RW and there is youth behind him there as well: Jordan Szwarz, Zach Senyshyn, Alexander Khoklachev, Peter Cehlárik, the list goes on. This team is as deep in the system as it has been in a long time.


Regardless of where he lines up, the future at forward appears crowded, and Czarnik may find himself the odd man out unless the minds monitoring his development see improvement on some of the downsides of his game. This includes his attempted shot totals as he sits around 10 attempts per 60 minutes. While he inserts himself well in playmaking situations, he is more of a possession center than a true goalscorer.

Ideally, the team retains him with 2-3 year contract at a reasonable cost and should Bruce Cassidy find himself struggling to find him a consistent spot then Don Sweeney will be in a better position to address his future (or lack thereof) with the organization. Make no mistake: they made the right decision to send him down to Providence before the contract got more complicated and risked having some level of control at year’s end regarding free agency.  He is without question a valued asset, and many (including myself) would be disappointed to see him go elsewhere, but this is crunch time for Austin Czarnik if he wants to stick with the club going forward.

Thomas Nyström, Contributor.
Follow me on Twitter @nahstrom

An Early Look at 2018 Free-Agency, And Who Could Be The Next Bruin

Photo: nhl.com

By Thomas Nyström | Follow on twitter @nahstrom

The front office of the Boston Bruins has shown that they have a strong grasp on the idea that the success of the franchise hinges on drafting and developing talent, retaining character individuals, and inserting capable veterans that fit their idea of roster needs with regards to maximizing roles. Part of that last bit comes with shrewd and thoughtful spending as one bad contract can set a franchise back for years in terms of cap flexibility and blocking youth from having a spot where they could potentially contribute on the NHL level.

That said, I feel it’s never to early to start looking at the 2018 free agent market. There will be a number of valuable assets to be courted by seasons end and in the spirit of staying ahead of the game, I have a short list of names General Manager Don Sweeney and company may target when the signing period begins this summer.

Here are some key veterans to keep your eye on, in no particular order:

Patric Hornqvist, RW

2017-18 Cap Hit: $4,250,000

Having watched him for a number of years with the Nashville Predators, Hornqvist has only scratched the surface when it comes to being recognized by the general NHL audience. Criminally underrated while being masked by his big-name counterparts in Pittsburgh these last few seasons, the right-winger has put together a body of work that many teams will no doubt find attractive this summer. While his name isn’t a ‘sexy’ addition for most fans, Hornqvist does all the little things that the Boston faithful would fall in love with. His willingness to shoot, hit, and get into the dirty areas and grind for possession always stood out to me. He’s an agitator on the ice and will draw penalties. He will get under the skin of the defensemen as he sticks his face in every cover-up the opposing goalie is forced into. Hornqvist is a hockey-player’s hockey player if you understand what I mean. His downside? His style of play puts in harm’s way often and at 31 years-old, injuries and general instances of getting banged up are commonplace. With youth behind him to fill gaps, Patric could find a valuable roll on a team that loves leadership and work-ethic.

Michael Grabner, RW

2017-18 Cap Hit: $1,650,000

30 year-old Michael Grabner is about as valuable a bottom-six winger can be in todays NHL. He possess above average speed and a strong level of hockey intelligence. Any coach appreciates his message being enforced night-in, night-out by a respected on-ice leader, and Grabner gives you just that. He’s very useful on the penalty kill, and is reliable in both 5-5 and 4-4 situations. Ultimately a ‘safe’ get for any potential suitor,  I would project him to look at going to a team that can contend quickly for reasonable money rather than go somewhere that a cup may be out of reach for a payday.

John Carlson, D

2017-18 Cap Hit: $3,966,667

Washington can’t let this guy go without a sizable effort to resign, can they? The Cap’s have had a tough stretch for their defensive unit as of late in losing Shattenkirk and Alzner last offseason. Add to that a handful of injury issues they’ve had to deal with this year, and Washington would appear to be borderline desperate to lock down Carlson to stabilize the blue line for a few more cup runs during Ovechkin’s tenure. While amassing above average minutes for a good amount of his season, Carlson has showcased his durability and value for his current team as well as a ton of potential suitors who will no doubt be slapping some chair-tops and waving him over in a few months. No brainer thing to say: Carlson is going to make a ton of money this summer.

Calvin de Haan, D
2017-18 Cap Hit: $3,300,000

This one won’t get many excited but a smart team will take a good look at him come July. Basically sheltered from the league playing in Brooklyn right now, de Haan has been a low-key favorite of the Islanders fans, and for good reason. He’s a worker, though nothing stands out about his play. Keep in mind that sometimes hearing little about a defenseman is a good thing. He keeps mistakes to a minimum, blocks shots, can possess the puck well, and is a reliable piece for any team in need. One reason he’s on this list is because everything you’d want in Nick Holden, who the Bruins recently dealt for, is actually there in de Haan. Additionally, if Boston moves a player like  Brandon Carlo at the deadline for a piece that may not be there next year, de Haan could be looked at to fill a role for the 2018-19 season and thereafter.

Antti Raanta, G

2017-18 Cap Hit: $1,000,000

Raanta is only 29, which is a good age for netminders in terms of experience and longevity for his next suitor. Also at that age teams know what they’re getting when it comes to skill level. Raanta is developed and could be a stable and afforded back-up behind Tuukka Rask. While Arizona is toiling this year, one bright spot has been the consistent play of Raanta. His numbers are among the best of his career and he has shown himself worthy of a job next season for a number of net-needy organizations. This move could be an affordable and sensible way to go should Anton Khudobin’s asking price be too high for Boston to bring him back.

Key Bruins free-agents this offseason include RFA’s: Ryan Spooner, Sean Kuraly, and Austin Czarnik as well as UFA’s: Riley Nash and Tim Schaller. It would be great to see Spooner and Nash back but their play has likely priced themselves out of Boston’s spending intentions. Additionally, while I would personally hate to lose him, Czarnik has doubled his value and deserves a shot as an NHL roster mainstay and unfortunately as things look right now on paper, it may not be in Boston.

In time we will see these storylines develop. For now it’s just all something we need to keep in the back of our minds, although undoubtedly the front office is way ahead of us all.


Thomas Nyström, Contributor.
Follow me on Twitter @nahstrom

Boston Bruins Deadline: Why They Do Not Need ‘The Next Chara’ Right Now


Photo Credit: nbcsports

By: Thomas Nystrom           Follow Me On Twitter @nahstrom 

There appears to be a difference in opinion prevailing amongst Bruins fans. Do you go out and get the big name at the deadline? Do you stand pat? The fact that Boston is even in this situation is nothing short of incredible based on preseason expectations. The chemistry and production has been lauded in big media outlets across North America. The question has become: Do they have enough to win a cup? Regardless of which crowd you belong to, the Boston Bruins have some critical decisions to make in the next ten days regarding acquiring a big piece or depth pieces.

While there are still valid arguments being made to the contrary, the idea of getting the ‘superstar’ has appeared to dim over the last week in and around the media coverage surrounding the Bruins. I would like to discuss one particular sticking point; the idea that getting a big name defensemen now could help Boston in both the immediate and future seasons. Absolutely, that goes without question. However, be wary of such a simplistic analysis. I take issue with the idea that a move like that will result in a guy who’d become Zdeno Chara’s future replacement. Take this into account: Chara will undoubtedly resign after this season. There is no debate. He has stated he wishes to keep playing and doing so in a Boston uniform. The assumption is that he will be here two more seasons and within the next two years there are numerous opportunities to address his eventual replacement. Drafting a successor and/or developing current or future prospects is vital to the organizational process both while we have Chara, and after he retires. This is not even taking into account that his replacement very well could be playing next to him night after night right now. Charlie McAvoy’s contract extension has to be the priority of the offseason and it’s not even close. Resigning McAvoy to a long-term deal would cement this blue line for the next decade. At that point, drafting and developing his line-mate can be brought into the discussion. Something to consider is whether Brandon Carlo may or may not be here at that point, and his detractors would obviously prefer the later. I will state for the record: there is not a team in the NHL that wouldn’t play Carlo 17-20 minutes a night right now. Whether or not the Bruins view him as expendable remains to be seen, but for the moment Carlo is lined up to be a defensive fixture for the foreseeable future.

  Zdeno Chara On Patrice Bergeron’s Play, NHL Trade Deadline, Courtesy of NESN

The direction in which this team will go at the deadline is entirely speculation. The front office has redeemed themselves from initial mixed reviews just a year ago when they fire Claude Julien and did little to make waves in the offseason. We must now take a step back and put our trust in Don Sweeney and his staff. Trust includes that the Boston Bruins will ultimately take their best option at the deadline while understanding what put them in the position of being ‘buyers’ in the first place: patience, depth, and chemistry. Should the team decide to stay the course with what they have, and perhaps add depth for the playoff run, the fans have little to complain about. Things look positive for the present and future of the franchise, deadline splash or not.


Thomas Nyström, Contributor.
Follow me on Twitter @nahstrom

Quick Hit: Bruins Fall In Trap Game

Photo credit: AP Photo/Michael Dwyer

By: Thomas Nystrom           Follow Me On Twitter @nahstrom 

Saturday night we saw a much different Bruins team take the ice. Not in terms of personnel, but certainly in the way of effort and execution. Boston looked disjointed in every aspect of the game. The stick handling left much to be desired, the passing was lazy, and the shots didn’t find their mark with any level of consistency in comparison to what we’ve seen over the better part of the last two months. Tuukka Rask had a few misreads and blown saves, although the highlights will also show that he kept them in this game until the very end with a handful of unbelievable stops. Unfortunately his effort wasn’t enough to continue his outstanding point streak which ends at 21 games.

This game appears to be less about Rask’s off night and more about the overall lack of compete from a Boston squad fresh off a few days rest after an absolutely commanding road performance in their 6-1 victory over the New York Rangers.

The flip side of this article is undoubtedly being written in Buffalo as we speak, but here, the great things that the Sabres did tonight shouldn’t go without praise. The Buffalo Sabres entered TD Garden with purpose despite having very little to play for at this stage of their mostly disappointing 2017-2018 campaign. They were strong on the forecheck, broke up a number of high-probability scoring chances, and backup Goaltender Chad Johnson put together an outstanding if not unexpected 60 minute effort in net. Ryan O’Reilly centered a Buffalo line that tonight played Bergeron/Marchand/Pastrnak with intensity and fearlessness arguably more-so than any other offensive pairing since November. Mind you, Buffalo’s best weapon and Massachusetts’ own Jack Eichel was knocked out of the game with under 7 minutes left in the first on an ugly looking collision where he came down awkwardly with his leg pinned beneath him.

Positive spin: I would like to state for the record that in no way do I believe the Sabres just laid out the blueprint for how to contain the monster that has been the Boston Bruins over the better part of the season. This was a ‘trap game’ if there ever was one. The seemingly easier contest of the back to back this weekend didn’t go as planned, but in many ways was half-heartedly forecasted. The ‘trap’ is not a myth folks and tonight was exhibit A.

The Boston Bruins travel to Newark, New Jersey tomorrow to take on the (27-19-8) Devils, whom are coming off their own 6-1 thrashing at the hands of Columbus on Sunday. I foresee a physical, perhaps desperate level of effort from both teams looking to quickly right the ship. Face off at 7:00pm. See you then.

Thomas Nyström, Contributor.
Follow me on Twitter @nahstrom

Game Preview: Bruins vs. Rangers Has No Shortage of Storylines

Photo credit: Yahoo Sports

By: Thomas Nystrom           Follow Me On Twitter @nahstrom 

Despite the New York Rangers season having fallen off the rails, there is no shortage of things to watch for in tonight’s match-up.

Tonight the Boston Bruins take on the Rangers at Madison Square Garden featuring the return of Brad Marchand. The embattled winger finished his suspension and will look to get right back into the unmistakably dominant flow that the first line had been on. Patrice Bergeron, David Pastrnak, and Marchand are arguably the best two-way line in hockey and prior to his suspension for an elbow to New Jersey Devils forward Marcus Johansson, they were lighting up opponents at a record pace. It will be interesting to see the reaction from Ranger fans and players alike, perhaps trying to goad Marchand into making another costly mistake. The NHL offices will no doubt be watching #63 with a close eye tonight in New York.

A compelling dynamic to tonights rivalry game is the idea that the Rangers appear to be sellers at the upcoming trade deadline, and perhaps a number of players are auditioning for their potential future teams, Boston included. Names like defenseman Ryan McDonagh, and forwards Michael Grabner, Rick Nash, David Desharnais, and fan favorite Mats Zuccarello have been floated out there as potentially available. Zuccarello and McDonagh both have time past the end of this season left on their contracts and are signed through the end of next season.

Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman reported in January that the Rangers are preparing to take calls regarding players up and down the roster, regardless of contract status.

One more interesting thing to know is that AHL affiliates of both organizations play one another the night before the February 26th deadline. Hartford Wolf Pack (NYR) head to Providence to take on the Bruins for a Sunday matinee at 3:05. Any indications of a potential deal between New York and Boston could possibly make itself apparent in that contest in the form of a healthy scratch for one or more Providence prospects. That will be something to monitor as the game approaches.

Boston Bruins (32-11-8) vs. New York Rangers (25-23-5)
Madison Square Garden
8:00 pm on NBCSN

Projected Lineups:

Boston Bruins

Brad Marchand – Patrice Bergeron – David Pastrnak
Jake DeBrusk – David Krejci – Ryan Spooner
Danton Heinen – Riley Nash – David Backes
Tim Schaller – Sean Kuraly – Austin Czarnik

Zdeno Chara – Charlie McAvoy
Torey Krug – Brandon Carlo
Matt Grzelcyk – Adam McQuaid

Anton Khudobin getting the nod in goal.

New York Rangers

Rick Nash – Mika Zibanejad – Mats Zuccarello
JT Miller – David Desharnais – Jesper Fast
Michael Grabner – Kevin Hayes – Vinni Lettieri
Cody McLeod – Peter Holland – Paul Carey

Ryan McDonagh – Nick Holden
Brady Skjei – Steve Kampfer
Brendan Smith – Anthony DeAngelo

Henrik Lundqvist expected in net for the Rangers.

Thomas Nyström, Contributor.
Follow me on Twitter @nahstrom

Injuries And Depth A Concern, And Here’s How It Can Be Fixed

david-backesAbove Photo Credit: intelfeeds

By: Thomas Nystrom           Follow Me On Twitter @nahstrom 

The story of the 2017-2018 Boston Bruins has now reached a critical point in ‘act two’ of the the season. At this juncture it can be classified as an obstacle while being mindful that there is a thin line between that and a full blown crisis in any story arc. The obstacle Boston currently faces is a test of organizational depth, and fans are already looking for answers.

During Tuesday nights return to post-all-star action we saw two immediate tests come in the form of a cross-check to Anders Bjork, and an unreasonably late hit high on David Backes. Neither player would return in this contest and Coach Bruce Cassidy has already stated that Bjork will be missing some time. The true extent of the Backes injury is still undetermined but it appears right now that he avoided a set-back on the hit from Anaheim’s Nick Ritchie. He indicated today that he ‘feels fine’ to NBC Sports Boston’s Joe Haggerty.

This makes the last week and a half’s injuries and issues compile into something not only worth monitoring, but addressing before it becomes the narrative of the second half. Bjork is out, and if it’s a shoulder as reported.. it may be a bit before he’s back to 100%. Charlie McAvoy hopefully will return sooner than later but coming off a heart procedure there is zero pressure to rush back from anyone in the organization. Backes narrowly avoided another stint on the IR. Noel Acciari has missed time with a lower body injury and is not expected to return to action Thursday against the Blues. And lastly, Brad Marchand still has another three games to serve on his suspension for a hit that did not need to happen.

Depth is going to be a major plot point for the remainder of the season, and one that will likely be addressed at the trade deadline on February 26th. Names like Evander Kane have been tossed out there, though the general consensus is that the persistent drama surrounding him is a chemistry risk and may outweigh the upside a player like that would present. Max Pacioretty is rumored to be available but I highly doubt Montreal and Boston would come to any reasonable terms for him. Michael Grabner, James Neal, Patrick Maroon, Rick Nash, and so on — all left wingers who will come with a high asking price from their respective organizations. Besides, to me I see a higher need to perhaps add a right winger and not a left, and a player like Jordan Kyrou would be safer, and more reasonably priced at the deadline.

All options will no doubt be considered and explored accordingly, just looking at the injury report as it stands today only accentuates the need for help on the wing for the final stretch to the post-season. Should the Bruins choose to primarily work within the system, their options at the AHL level include players like Peter Cehlarik who was called up this morning to fill the void left by Accairi and Bjork, both considered day-to-day per Bruce Cassidy. If Backes winds up missing any time this season (or any center for that matter) there is the impending call-ups of Providence’s Ryan Fitzgerald and Jakob Forbacka Karlsson. Both would be exciting promotions for Bruins fans in the know, but not a move considered ‘sexy’ by the casual fan that will start jumping on board with the team for the next few months as they push for a high seed in the conference heading into the playoffs.

Simply stated, Bruins appear to be deep but could/should add to that if the goal is to be raising hardware by the end of spring. This season started with a dense unavoidable haze of melancholy but has suddenly swung to an heir of confidence and hope for a deep playoff run. How proactive the orginization is in the coming weeks with regards to putting the pieces together for Cassidy to mold into a championship team — that is the new narritive.

Thomas Nyström, Contributor.

Follow me on Twitter @nahstrom

McIntyre Entering Career Defining Stretch


( Above Photo Credit:  Bridgeport Soundtigers)

By: Thomas Nyström            Follow Me On Twitter @nahstrom 

The ups and downs of professional hockey can sometimes be destructive to a developing player. Particularly so for a goaltender, a position that either takes the blame or praise for the results on any given night. The sixty-minute spotlight comes with an undeniable amount of pressure, more-so than anyone outside of the game could truly quantify.

Providence’s 25 year old netminder, Zane McIntyre’s professional career started during the 2015-2016 season where he played 31 games for Providence going 14-8-7 with an .898 save percentage, and one playoff appearance where he allowed 4 goals before being pulled at the end of two periods. Expectations had been higher due to his three years with the University of North Dakota where he amassed a 58-24-9 record with an .925 save percentage for his college career. McIntyre rebounded in his second professional year (2016/2017) winning 21 games in 31 appearances and a stingy .203 GAA. McIntyre additionally played another 933 minutes of playoff hockey to close out the season going in his appearances to the tune of going 8-7 with a .906 save percentage. While these numbers improved from year one to year two, McIntyre’s prospect status was hampered by what transpired during his ‘cup of tea’ in Boston when he was called upon. In 8 games he posted an 0-4-1 record and just a hair below a 4.00 GAA.

Now in his third professional season, calling Zane McIntyre a ‘prospect’ can be taken with a grain of salt. Have we seen the best out of him already? That’s perhaps an unfair question to ask, but one he quite possibly has asked himself this year. Thus far for the 2017-2018 P-Bruins, Zane has played nearly 1600 minutes in 27 games and has won just 13 of them, with his .903 save percentage being bested by Jordan Binnington whose on loan from St. Louis.

But let’s look at his last few games: last week McIntyre was perfect in his two starts stopping every last one of the 55 shots sent his way. This was Zane’s first time in his professional career where he put together back-to-back shutouts. A stat line deemed worthy of Player of the Week honors for the AHL. Then his start on Wednesday he allowed 2 goals in a losing effort to Lehigh Valley on the road but made a number of big saves to hold the comeback within reach.

Zane McIntyre may not be considered an ‘elite prospect’ at this point (if technically a prospect at all), and perhaps may be losing his place in the hierarchy of Boston goaltenders. Many fans aren’t quite comfortable with the idea of Zane stepping in as Tuukka Rask’s backup next season, let alone if an injury should arise this season with Boston riding one of their greatest hot streaks in franchise history. Current backup, Anton Khudobin, is playing the roll exceptionally and will be an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season. If Khudobin looks for more money than the front office is looking to spend, does this force McIntyre into a roll he may not be ready for? One would hope not. Two scenarios: 1. Khudobin’s asking price is reasonable and the Bruins resign him for another year. The second, and perhaps the best case scenario from an organizational standpoint: McIntyre stays hot past the all-star break and into the AHL post-season. That would just be another chapter in the spoil of riches that has become Boston’s narrative this season, but it’s not out of the realm of possibility.

Boston fans can debate this for months to come, but it’s completely up to Zane McIntyre to decide.

Thomas Nyström, Contributor.
Follow me on Twitter @nahstrom

Bruins: Making the Oddsmakers Sweat With Recent Winning Ways

( Above Photo Credit:  Getty Images )

By: Thomas Nyström              Follow Me On Twitter @nahstrom

At the end of the Stanley Cup finals last year, the hockey world was buzzing about the Nashville Predators and their astoundingly rabid fanbase, and the loathsome Pittsburgh Penguins were preparing to raise yet another banner. Meanwhile, Vegas was just starting to put it all together. No, not just the Golden Knights… I’m talking the other team: the Vegas oddsmakers. When NHL betting lines began to come out in June of 2017, The Boston Bruins were given just 33-1 odds to win the cup in the 2017-2018 season (according to bovada.lv). That put them at 17 in the league, and essentially a fringe wild-card team at best.

Well, Vegas isn’t always right, and I’d venture a guess that we all are wishing we’d put just a few bucks down because the Bruins appear to be very much in the hunt. As of writing this, the Bruins sit 2nd in the Atlantic Division just 3 and 9 points behind Washington and Tampa Bay, respectively in the conference. Boston has also played fewer games than both teams.

According to hockeyreference.com, the Bruins now possess a 17.8% chance to reach the Stanley Cup finals, and a 10.1% chance to win the whole thing. This is a far cry from their preseason betting odds and any logical analyst looking ahead at the season prior to opening the 2017-2018 regular season. This percentage is second highest of all teams behind the Lightning. Yes, higher than the Capitals, Vegas, Nashville, and Pittsburgh. Above any other original six team which is obviously a victory for the organization and it’s die-hard fan base, albeit usually an unspoken one. Statistical analysis is backing up the buzz behind Boston who are now on a 13 game point streak and haven’t suffered a regulation loss in what seems like an eon.

The production coming out of the youth on this team have exceeded expectations, the coaching staff has handled any and all adversities quite well, and the organization may have a little more depth down in Providence than originally thought. The P-Bruins sit 8th in the AHL in win percentage despite a roster who has been the victim of call-ups and injuries. The last three months of the regular season will inevitably test that depth, and it may be a big part of how we look back on this season in Boston when all is said and done.

Perhaps the depth will be addressed as the trade deadline, where the Bruins could likely use a defenseman, and a right winger at the NHL level, and I could certainly make an argument for goaltending depth in Providence. As of right now, I find myself trusting the organization to make the right moves more than I have in recent memory. Time will tell if I change my mind on that one — and believe me when I say, you’ll hear about it on my twitter if I’m left eating my words.

As we approach the all-star break next weekend, Boston fans have a lot to be happy about. The last half of the season will no doubt be as exciting as it’s been since 2013, and certainly more so than what was thought back in June.

Writers note: 33-1 odds for the Bruins may have brought a nice return, but could you imagine if someone took a shot and hit on the Vegas Golden Knights at 150-1? Dear Lord Stanley.

Thomas Nyström, Contributor.
Follow me on Twitter @nahstrom

Charlie McAvoy: Optimism For Even The Most Cynical Of Bruins Fans


( 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