Brandon Carlo

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Learning from Chara has set up Bruins’ Charlie McAvoy to excel

NEW YORK — Adapt and survive. That’s what Charlie McAvoy had to do after making his NHL debut with the Boston Bruins last season.

Forty-eight hours after his first practice, the defenseman was thrown into the fire during their opening round playoff series against the Ottawa Senators. He impressed well enough that with the score tied 1-1 late in the third period of Game 1, the 19-year-old was paired with Zdeno Chara during a shift that hemmed the Senators in their zone, leading to Brad Marchand’s game-winning goal.

Now 20 games into his NHL career, the 19-year-old McAvoy is still turning heads and playing himself into the Calder Trophy discussion.

The trust from the Bruins coaching staff and his ability to handle heavy minutes has brought McAvoy to where he is now. His 22:55 of ice time a night leads all rookie skaters. In fact, no other NHL freshman is averaging over 20 minutes. Playing against opponents’ top lines hasn’t caused too many problems either, as his 56 percent Corsi, per Corsica, places him eighth among defensemen who have logged at least 200 minutes.

“He’s able to adapt very quickly and make contributions right away. We saw that last year in the playoffs when he stepped in and was giving us big minutes in big situations,” Chara told PHT on Wednesday. “I would say he’s able to make those quick adjustments and contributions.”

Chara is used to being anchored with a young partner. The last few seasons have seen him working alongside players like Dougie Hamilton and Brandon Carlo, all of whom share similar qualities to McAvoy. They’re tall, right-hand shots who see the ice well and are able to move the puck.

“You’ve got in Z an established shutdown guy who can play against anybody, relishes that role. He’ll bring that to Charlie’s mentality,” said Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy said. “Charlie can play against anybody. Charlie likes to make plays up the ice, joins the attack; so you get kind of a two-pronged pair. Charlie’s good at getting back on pucks, helps them break them out.”

For Chara, focus and consistency were important for him he was developing during his first few NHL seasons with the New York Islanders. Once he landed in Ottawa, that’s when his game really took off and he became the monster shutdown defenseman we’ve been able to watch for well over a decade. That advice has been relayed to his new partner.

As with all defense partners, Chara and McAvoy talk regularly in order to stay on the same page. And while it’s only been a short while, the young blue liner has learned even more just by watching what the 40-year-old future Hockey Hall of Famer handles himself on the ice.

“The way he controls the game is just awesome. There’s not many people I think can do it like that,” McAvoy said. “When he gets the puck, it’s kind of like a calm factor to him. He’s so strong defensively, I know when he’s going to win his battles.”

The life of a developing young NHL defenseman comes with its share of ups and downs. That’s why it’s been a boon for McAvoy to be partnered with someone who has nearly 1,400 games in the league. It’s a continuous education.

“I learned how to manage a game better, decisions with the puck,” said McAvoy. “He’s very good about not forcing plays. He’s makes the right plays at the right time.”

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

The Bruins are getting Krug, Czarnik back today; Bergeron not ready yet

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The Boston Bruins are finally getting a little bit of good injury news on Monday.

After playing the season opener without Patrice Bergeron, Torey Krug, David Backes and Austin Czarnik, and then losing forward Noel Acciari for as long as six weeks during the game, two of those players will be returning for today’s game against the Colorado Avalanche.

The team announced on Monday morning that both Krug and Czarnik have been activated from injured reserve and are now eligible to return. Coach Bruce Cassidy confirmed that they will both in the lineup.

In a related move, the team also announced that Backes and Acciari have been placed on injured reserve. Both are expected to miss several weeks.

But while Krug are Czarnik are back, Cassidy also announced that Bergeron is not quite ready to return to the lineup but that he will accompany the team on the upcoming road trip.

He remains listed as day-to-day. He participated in practice on Sunday in a non-contact jersey but left early.

Still, getting Krug back in the lineup will be a great addition for the Bruins because he is one of the best offensive defenseman in the league. Along with him, Brandon Carlo and Charlie McAvoy the Bruins finally have a bit of a puck-moving presence on that blue line and a trio of younger players that can be used to restock the cupboard after the position had become a bit of a weakness in recent seasons.

 

Bruins injuries continue to mount, lose Noel Acciari for six weeks

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Already playing their season opener without forwards Patrice Bergeron and David Backes, as well as defenseman Torey Krug, the Boston Bruins lost another forward to injury in their 4-3 win over the Nashville Predators.

Forward Noel Acciari suffered a fractured finger in that game, and on Saturday morning the Bruins offered an update on his status.

The team announced that Acciari underwent surgery to fix a left index finger fracture and it is going to sideline him for at least six weeks. The 26-year-old Acciari played in 26 games for the Bruins a season ago, scoring two goals to go with four assists.

The Bruins are hoping to get Bergeron back in the lineup soon, but Backes is going to be sidelined for several weeks due to his injury.

Krug broke his jaw during the preseason when he was struck in the face by a puck.

Forward Brad Marchand, the team’s leading goal-scoring the past two seasons, was also banged up in the season opening win and left the arena in a walking boot but he seems to be fine.

All of the injuries have left the Bruins’ practice lines looking like this on Saturday.

They return to action on Monday afternoon when they host the Colorado Avalanche.

When healthy the Bruins could be a really interesting team in the Eastern Conference. Marchand, Bergeron, David Pastrnak and David Krejci are a solid core of forwards up front, while the defense has finally been able to add some young, puck-moving talent on to the back end with Krug, Charlie McAvoy and Brandon Carlo starting to take over the position. Tuukka Rask hasn’t been an elite goalie on a consistent basis for a couple of years now but he still has the ability to put the team on his back for stretches, and when he does, it is going to make the Bruins a really difficult team to beat.

Report: Bruins have interest in extending Zdeno Chara

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The Boston Bruins made news Thursday, signing restricted free agent forward David Pastrnak to a contract extension. There was also another nugget of information to come from Don Sweeney’s meeting with the media.

According to Joe Haggerty of CSN New England, the Bruins have interest in a contract extension for defenseman Zdeno Chara, and there have been discussions between the team’s general manager and its captain.

Chara turned 40 years old in March and has 1,350 regular season games under his belt, not to mention almost 150 playoff games. He also has one year remaining on his seven-year, $45 million contract, which, according to CapFriendly, has a cap hit of $4 million for the upcoming season.

Chara has been a beast for the Bruins for many years, imposing his will on opposing forwards and putting up impressive offensive numbers on numerous occasions throughout his career. Last season, he led all Boston players in overall ice time and time on the penalty kill — both by a sizable margin.

But he’s only getting older, which raises the discussion about whether he can still handle such a significant workload going forward, especially if he does return beyond this season. The Bruins also have defensemen like Torey Krug, Brandon Carlo and Charlie McAvoy who could be ready to take on even more responsibility on the blue line.

“It’s something that probably management has to think about and make a decision on that,” Chara told NESN in April. “I’ve said many times I want to play and would like to play beyond this contract. I want to still be very effective and still want to get better and improve and maintain my game and keep adding to my game.”

McAvoy ready to make an impact for Bruins

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Prized Boston Bruins prospect Charlie McAvoy made his NHL debut for the Boston Bruins last postseason out of necessity. The team was dealing with a rash of injuries on the blue line, and McAvoy, the team’s first-round pick in 2016, just happened to be the next man up. At just 19 years of age and with only minimal pro hockey experience on his resume McAvoy found himself playing playing more than 26 minutes per night in the Stanley Cup Playoffs alongside a future Hall of Famer in Zdeno Chara.

Even though the Bruins’ season came to an end in that first-round matchup against the Ottawa Senators, McAvoy showed them a promising glimpse of their future on defense.

Now he is ready for a full-time role with the team this upcoming season.

He spoke to the Bruins’ website this week about that first NHL experience and what he can learn from that when it comes to making the Bruins’ opening night roster this season.

From Eric Russo of the Bruins website.

“I think that the experience I had last year was an unbelievable opportunity,” said McAvoy, who joined 13 of his teammates for a captain’s practice at Warrior Ice Arena on Friday morning.

“That experience was so valuable for myself to get familiar with the organization and the team itself, and I can use that now heading in for the full year, the rookie camp, opening the season, all of those things.

“I’m excited to have a full year and I can definitely use all of those experiences that I had to make sure I’m ready to go.”

McAvoy’s developmemt has to be exciting for the Bruins because their defense, the team’s greatest strength just a few years ago, has taken some significant steps backwards in recent seasons due to trades (Johnny Boychuk and Dougie Hamilton) and age (Chara getting older, Dennis Seidenberg moving on).

But there is hope on the horizon with some of the young talent that has been assembled on the back end.

Torey Krug has developed into one of the most productive offensive defensemen in the league, while Brandon Carlo had a really promising rookie season, appearing in every game and playing at a high level for a 20-year-old.

Now McAvoy is ready to join the picture and give the Bruins another young and potential impact player.

The Bruins have a lot of talent up front with Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand, David Krejci and David Pastrnak (once they get him signed) leading the way, and now they have a pretty strong group of young, offensive minded defensemen that can get the puck to them and help create chances.