Zdeno Chara

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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.

Not good: Brad Marchand suffered a concussion

Screenshot from Sportsnet telecast
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Tough news for a Boston Bruins team dealing with a tough start: Brad Marchand has a concussion.

That’s the word from head coach Claude Julien, so it’s a sure thing.

Now, there was no word about how severe the issue may be, but it’s officially a concussion. It’s not the ideal scenario even if it’s a “minor concussion,” which feels like a contradictory idea in itself.

Here’s the Dale Weise hit from last night’s eventual 4-2 win by the Montreal Canadiens:

It’s not official like Marchand’s concussion, but there may be a bit of good news. Maybe.

Matt Irwin was placed on waivers Sunday, which may indicate that Zdeno Chara is ready to play again.

That would be a much-needed boost.

CSNNE.com has more.

Seidenberg says trade rumors were ‘a slap in the face’

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Suffice to say Dennis Seidenberg wasn’t happy about hearing his name in trade talks this summer.

“If I had heard it from the GM then I would have been concerned, but the thing that bothered me was that people even talked about it. That’s kind of a slap in the face. It means you’re not playing your best, and you obviously want to play to a level where people don’t question you,” Seidenberg told the Boston Herald. “On the other hand, you have to focus on your own game and not worry about what people say. If it comes from the top, then you have to be worried about it, but I’ve never heard anything.

“I’ve read it and I saw it, but at the end of the day, I have to focus on what I have to do.”

Seidenberg, 34, is coming off an up-and-down campaign, his first full season since tearing his ACL in ’13-14. His play, age and cap hit — $4 million through 2018 — led many to speculate he could be on his way out of town, especially with the B’s pressed so close to the cap ceiling.

Trade fires were further stoked when, just prior to March’s trade deadline, Seidenberg said he’d waive his no-trade clause if asked. A few months later, he again responded to trade rumblings, this time insisting he wanted to stay in Boston.

Since then, much has changed on the Bruins’ defense.

Dougie Hamilton was traded to Calgary, Matt Bartkowski signed in Vancouver and when the dust settled, Seidenberg emerged as a key component of a defense that looks to be comprised of himself, Zdeno Chara, Torey Krug, Adam McQuaid, Kevan Miller and Matt Irwin.

So now, the veteran German rearguard can focus on taking those trade rumors and using them as fuel for a bounce-back campaign.

“You never like people to write those kinds of things about you,” he said. “It just means that you have to work harder and do better.”

PHT Morning Skate: Eddie Lack gets a taco tattoo

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PHT’s Morning Skate takes a look around the world of hockey to see what’s happening and what we’ll be talking about around the NHL world and beyond.

Apparently Eddie Lack really loves his tacos. The Carolina Hurricanes’ goaltender recently added a taco tattoo to his arm.

Sidney Crosby’s off-ice life hardly reflects that of a superstar. (Pittsburgh Tribune-Review)

Friday was Marian Hossa’s day with the Stanley Cup and he decided to hang out with fellow cup champs Zdeno Chara and Marian Gaborik. (Bar Down)

The Hockey News takes a look at the 20 best free agents who could hit the open market next summer. (THN)

Islanders’ great Mike Bossy has been reunited with his “50 in 50 puck”. (TMZ)

Eddie Lack photos courtesy of @EddieLack

The Bruins are fighting the tax man over expensed meals

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The Boston Bruins are in a battle with the Internal Revenue Service in U.S. Tax Court, with the hockey team arguing that player meals on the road should be 100 percent tax deductible.

From the Boston Globe:

The IRS limits deductions for meal expenses to 50 percent in most cases.

The Bruins contend the 50 percent cap — contained in a section of the tax code for “entertainment, amusement, or recreation” — should not apply because fueling world-class athletes for competition is a fundamental part of their business.

“In short, the pregame mandatory meals and the meetings at away city hotels allow the club and the players to prepare for the upcoming game — both physically and mentally,” the petition by the Bruins owner said. “In this regard, the pregame meals and the meetings serve as a necessary component of the Bruins’ hockey operations.”

We’re no tax experts here at PHT, but we’d tend to agree with the team’s assertion that fueling Zdeno Chara is a “necessary component of the Bruins’ hockey operations.” Even more so next season!

Bloomberg BNA was the first to report on this story.