By Ty Anderson, 985TheSportsHub.com
When it came to Charlie McAvoy and his 55-game goal drought, I had convinced myself that he was either going to remain cursed forever and finish the year without a goal to his name or he was going to score the biggest goal possible to finally break through. In my head, that ‘biggest goal’ was, like, the winner in a division clincher against the Lightning or an overtime goal in the playoffs.
Now, not sure you’d consider an overtime winner over the Blackhawks as ‘big,’ but McAvoy will certainly take it.
As will his teammates, who by all means refused to let McAvoy get up from the ice in celebration, knowing what it meant to McAvoy to finally get on the board with goal No. 1.
“I know just from talking with [McAvoy] he was getting a little anxious about [not scoring],” Bruins defenseman Torey Krug told reporters after the win in Chicago. “That’s natural and to be expected, but he hasn’t let it affect what he does for us the rest of the way as far as being a great defenseman for this team and shutting down other teams’ top lines and moving the puck and doing everything else well.”
That last point from Krug is key, really. In other words: Don’t let this meager goal total distract you from the fact that McAvoy, who skated in the 169th game of his NHL career last night, is already playing like exactly what the Bruins need on their backend.
And then some.
Among the group of 84 NHL defensemen to play at least 800 minutes of five-on-five hockey this season, McAvoy is currently surrendering the 10th-fewest on-ice scoring chances against per 60 minutes, at 23.29. This is the best mark among all Boston defensemen (Brandon Carlo is 20th, at 23.93). McAvoy is also averaging the 22nd-fewest high-danger scoring chances against per 60 minutes, at 9.55. That’s third on the Bruins, behind Brandon Carlo (sixth-fewest in the NHL) and Zdeno Chara (12th-fewest in the NHL).
On the ice for 47 goals for and 38 goals against at five-on-five, McAvoy’s plus-9 goal differential makes his goals-for percentage 55.29%. That’s the 15th-best in the NHL. Some names around him in that stat include Seth Jones (13th), Aaron Ekblad (14th), Alex Pietrangelo (16th). Norris runaway John Carlson, meanwhile, is 9th in this stat (57.89%).
McAvoy’s most favorable stat, however, comes in the high-danger realm. On the ice for 29 high-danger goals for, and just 19 against, McAvoy’s 60% high-danger goals-for percentage is the 8th-best in the NHL. Only Zach Werenski, Victor Hedman, Roman Josi, Kevin Shattenkirk, Seth Jones, John Marino, and Carlo have stronger percentages here.
In terms of raw differentials, the Bruins are outshooting opponents 522-478 (plus-44), out-chancing teams 453-378 (plus-75), and besting them in high-danger scoring chances 185-155 (plus-30) with McAvoy on the ice for five-on-five action.
Bruins netminders are also posting a .921 save percentage when McAvoy is on the ice.
Moving beyond percentages and pure analytics, McAvoy has drawn 15 penalties at five-on-five (most among that group of 84), and his 90 blocked shots are the third-most. He also has 29 takeaways (sixth-most), and his 98 hits are the ninth-most. Break it down per 60 and McAvoy is dishing out the 10th-most hits per 60 (6.04), and blocking the fourth-most shots per 60 (5.54).
He’s become a more complete defenseman, and while this may not be what the Bruins wanted out of McAvoy’s third full season in the NHL (they wanted more of an offensive leap), there’s no denying the idea that they have a top pairing ace.
So while goals are nice, these strengths should be enough if the rest of the Boston roster is doing their job.
If they get both like they have over these last two games, however, then the rest of the league should be put on notice.
Here are some other thoughts and notes from a 2-1 win over the ‘Hawks….
Jonathan Toews says referees admit they screwed up on Chicago’s would-be game-winning goal
Let’s be real: The Blackhawks were screwed out of what should’ve probably been the game-winning goal with 1:05 remaining in the third period of a tied game. With a loose puck just ahead of a tumbling Olli Maatta, the Chicago defenseman fell to the ice, pushed the puck with his hands, but then appeared to get his stick on a puck sent Drake Caggiula’s way.
Caggiula corralled the puck and fired it through Halak, and the Blackhawks jumped ahead in what was a must-win for them.
But the referees quickly shook their heads and decided that Maatta’s pass was all hand and no stick.
Speaking with reporters after the loss, Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews says that the officials told him that they screwed it up on the call, and that the could should have counted for Chicago, who are currently three points out of a wild card spot.
“They made a mistake, blew the whistle,” Blackhawks coach Jeremy Colliton said. “Not much you can say after that. It’s done.”
If you’re a Bruins fan, you don’t care. You don’t care about the Blackhawks’ feelings or their playoff race. You’ve also been on the wrong end of about a billion terrible calls over the last year plus. Like everyone has. But hey, just a reminder that this could not be reviewed, but potentially millimeter-off zone entires scored 45 seconds before a goal are fair game. Woof.
Kuraly-Coyle-Bjork line developing some chemistry together
It’s been two games since Sean Kuraly rejoined the Boston lineup — and to the left of a third line with Charlie Coyle and Anders Bjork — and two games with the Coyle line looking straight-up fantastic for the Bruins. Together for both Tuesday night against the Canucks and Wednesday against the Blackhawks, the line has been together for just under 18 minutes of five-on-five play, and have outshot the opposition 16-6, and outscored them 2-0 after Kuraly’s game-tying goal last night.
Kuraly’s long-term fit for the Bruins is probably still in the middle of Boston’s tone-setting fourth line between Joakim Nordstrom and Chris Wagner, but this trio continues to make Bruce Cassidy think about what he may have here.
The Bruins are in on everybody
If you caught last night’s game on the NBC Sports Network broadcast, you got the privilege of hearing TSN’s Bob McKenzie talk about the Bruins and their trade deadline aspirations. The Bobfather didn’t exactly shock you, but the message seemed simple enough: The Bruins are in on everybody. Chris Kreider. Tyler Toffoli. Even the Jackets’ Josh Anderson.
They’re trying to see what’s out there, and what the prices will be.
It’s no surprise that Kreider is the top prize (it’s believed that the Rangers want a comparable or better return than the one they got for Kevin Hayes last year), while Toffoli might be the next-best option for teams like the Bruins. The Anderson note is interesting, too, as McKenzie noted that while the Blue Jackets aren’t eager to move Anderson, they are listening. Anderson, who has one goal and four points in an injury-interrupted 26-game year for Columbus, is a pending restricted free agent.