Boston Bruins

Boston Bruins

Oct 26, 2023; Boston, Massachusetts, USA; Boston Bruins defenseman Charlie McAvoy (73) scores a goal past Detroit Red Wings goaltender Ville Husso (35) during the first period at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

The most encouraging development from the Boston Bruins’ most recent wins: they’re getting perhaps the best versions of their two most important (and expensive) players.

Obviously, there’s David Pastrnak, who has eight goals in as many games and is now 2-for-2 on penalty shots. But even more promising is that defenseman Charlie McAvoy is starting to cash in offensively.

McAvoy scored his first goal of the season in Saturday night’s 4-1 win over the Detroit Red Wings, and is now up to a goal and four assists over his last four games. After his recent surge, he’s on pace for 10 goals and 62 assists in the early-going.

BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS - OCTOBER 28: Charlie McAvoy #73 of the Boston Bruins skates against the Detroit Red Wings during the first period at TD Garden on October 28, 2023 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS – OCTOBER 28: Charlie McAvoy #73 of the Boston Bruins skates against the Detroit Red Wings during the first period at TD Garden on October 28, 2023 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

“I thought [McAvoy] started the year off well, and now I think he’s just dominating,” said head coach Jim Montgomery after the game. “Our other defensemen are playing really well, too. We’re blessed with our D-corps and we’re blessed with our goalies. We know that’s the strength of the team … that’s going to give us an opportunity to win every night.”

McAvoy has been an especially effective 5-on-5 player, thanks in part to his well-rounded game. Entering Saturday, he ranked sixth among all defensemen in on-ice expected goal percentage (xGF%) at 5-on-5 (minimum 120 minutes on ice). He’s allowing the 14th fewest shot attempts per 60 minutes when on the ice at 5-on-5 (53.0).

He’s 27th in on-ice shot attempts (65.5), a number that would most certainly be higher if he didn’t carry as much defensive responsibility in his own end. But it has been the aggression on offense that’s really stood out about McAvoy’s game so far this year.

  • McAvoy’s goal may have been his first of the season, but the play wasn’t anything out of the ordinary for him. He’s been rushing with the puck down below the faceoff dot noticeably often so far this season. He’s tied for eighth among all defensemen in 5-on-5 shots on goal (16) partially as a result of that.

    The difference Saturday was that he finally finished one by himself. Literally, it was unassisted. But he was looking for an assist at first, as the area just below the faceoff dot has become an office of sorts for him. At the end of the day, McAvoy won the loose puck battle and put it through Detroit goalie Ville Husso with pure speed and instincts. It was the kind of play that makes you forget he’s a defenseman.

    “As soon as I thought I could win the race, I just went and tried to use my feet to get down the wall,” McAvoy said on his goal. “It’s kind of like that area where you’re looking at maybe more around the net and seeing if you can find somebody, but it was sort of split-second. I cut across, and I guess good things happen when you go to the net. It’s nice to get rewarded.”

  • McAvoy, Pastrnak, and the upstart Bruins are now 7-0-1 on the season, with their dynamic young duo delivering at a high level of late. But they got their best challenge of the season coming up on Monday, when they have their first playoff rematch with the Florida Panthers. McAvoy didn’t have a great series against Florida last April, so he’s sure to be motivated to play better.

    If he plays anything like the way he has recently, he’s going to be a handful for them to contain.

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    Matt Dolloff is a writer and podcaster for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Check out all of Matt’s content here.

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