By Ty Anderson, 985TheSportsHub.com
It was this time around this time a year ago that Charlie McAvoy burst onto the scene and wowed. I mean, think about this way: The Bruins lost their first-round series in six games and McAvoy was almost the only thing anybody was talking about — and in a good way. To successfully pull that off, especially in Boston, takes something special.
Which is exactly what McAvoy has emerged as for the B’s.
But now, with the Bruins trying to fight off blowing a 3-1 series lead against the Maple Leafs in tonight’s Game 7 at TD Garden, it’s obvious that the Bruins are going to need a bit more out of their (still just) 20-year-old No. 2 defenseman.
Just under two months removed from a knee sprain that knocked him out of 15 games — McAvoy missed almost all of the March stretch run before he returned to skate in the final four games of the regular season — it’s clear that McAvoy’s timing seems off, and that his on-ice play has suffered as a result.
“Obviously, I don’t think he’s playing with as much confidence as he did last year,” Cassidy said of McAvoy’s postseason play. “We have to try to get him back to that place, but he’s a young guy. It doesn’t happen overnight. Sometimes the easiest message for those guys is simplify it; make the easy play, don’t try to do too much. When the puck finds you, because you’re a good player, in those moments, he’ll make that play. We hope that’s [Game 7].”
“There’s up and downs, and I knew it was going to be like that coming back [from injury],” McAvoy admitted. “There’s time of frustration, and times where you wanna make more of an impact, wanna play and make the plays that you were making before you got hurt. But there’s no sense in having that [negative] mindset.
“Medically, I’m cleared and I’m good to go, and I wanna get out there and impact this team. I wanna do everything I can to help us win this game, and this whole series I’ve been trying to play my best hockey.”
This series has been a truly bizarre one for the Bruins, too.
Outside of Game 4, a game that they ultimately won on the back of Tuukka Rask, it’s tough to say that the Bruins have been dramatically outplayed by the Maple Leafs. In fact, they haven’t. They’ve consistently carried the pace of play, often dominating the offensive zone with extended stretches of pinning the Leafs in their own end, and have peppered Toronto netminder Frederik Andersen for a combined 120 shots but scored just six total goals in their three losses.
But putting themselves in position where they can continue to storm Andersen and the defensively-woeful Maple Leafs in the attacking zone begins with McAvoy’s his decision-making and skating game out of the Boston end.
And something McAvoy felt was on the come despite the loss in Game 6.
“I think I was getting my legs going last game, I thought I was starting to move the puck well, and be more decisive,” said McAvoy. “In the third [period of Game 6], [I was] trying to come back there, making some good plays, and skating…those are the little things that I do so well, but it’s been a battle trying to come back and find my game.
“We had such a good year, we’ve had such a good series — there’s been up and downs — but we’re still a confident team in this room and we can feel we can get the job done,” McAvoy also offered up of his (and his team’s) mindset entering Game 7. “You grow up dreaming of these moments. I’m gonna enjoy every second of it.”
Ty Anderson is a digital producer for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Have a news tip, question, or comment for Ty? Follow him on Twitter @_TyAnderson.