Monday brought rough news for the red-hot Boston Bruins: sensational rookie defenseman Charlie McAvoy will miss at least two weeks after undergoing a procedure to treat an abnormal heartbeat.
As you can see in the video above, Keith Jones and Anson Carter discussed McAvoy’s absence, believing that the Bruins will be able to handle it reasonably well.
Tuesday represents the first test, as the B’s take on the New Jersey Devils in a game that’s currently in progress. It’s unclear how much it has to do with McAvoy not being in the lineup, but early on Boston is struggling on defense.
Via Left Wing Lock, it looks like Brandon Carlo slides into the top pairing with Zdeno Chara, while the other pairings look like this:
Chara — Carlo
Torey Krug — Adam McQuaid
Matt Grzelcyk — Kevan Miller
Now, Bruce Cassidy deserves credit for taking Claude Julien’s move to a more modern system in 2016-17 to a new level this season, and players like Krug and Carlo boast some promise.
That said, McAvoy’s beyond-his-age impact might be slipping under the radar. So far this season, only Chara (23:26 per game) is averaging more ice time than McAvoy (22:48), with Krug coming in at a distant third of 20:01. McAvoy’s possession stats have, honestly, been pretty brilliant.
While McAvoy undoubtedly benefits from the presence of Chara and what Jones (persuasively) argues is the best offensive line in hockey in Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand, and David Pastrnak, other blueliners haven’t been this brilliant even while receiving such a plum gig. Via this handy tool from CJ Turtoro using Corey Sznajder’s data, you can see that McAvoy has been a beast in transition and in denying opponents entry into his zone:
In other words, McAvoy is off the charts for a 20-year-old by most measures, including a healthy 25 points in 45 games this season. If the Calder Trophy was friendlier to defensemen, he’d probably be getting more hype as one of the best rookies in the NHL.
You don’t have to use “for a rookie” or “for a 20-year-old” qualifiers with McAvoy, though. He’s an important piece by any measure.
Even if McAvoy’s numbers are quite inflated – again, plausible with Chara still being really good – the Bruins could feel the sting from a depth standpoint. Guys who maybe should be in street clothes instead get foisted into the lineup. Someone better suited for a mid-level role might be asked to do too much.
McAvoy is expected, at least initially, to only miss two weeks, which would mean missing somewhere between 5-7 games the way Boston’s schedule falls. Of course, this is a heart-related procedure we’re talking about, so the Bruins need to proceed with caution if the young skater experiences setbacks.
If it’s only two weeks, it probably wouldn’t be a big deal; it might just give the Bruins a chance to realize just how pivotal he’s been in their rise from a team fighting for its playoff life to something more.
Update: The Bruins extended their point streak to 17 games, winning 3-2. Tuukka Rask was forced to make 37 saves, though.
James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.