NHL on NBC: McAvoy excelled even as goal drought continued

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NBC’s coverage of the 2019-20 NHL season continues with Sunday’s matchup between the Boston Bruins and Detroit Red Wings. Coverage begins at 12:30 p.m. ET on NBC. You can watch the game online and on the NBC Sports app by clicking here.

There was a period of 27 days when Predators goaltender Pekka Rinne had more goals this season than Charlie McAvoy.

The Bruins defenseman, who scored seven in each of his first two NHL seasons, had not recorded a goal in his first 50 games this season and had last lit the lamp in Game 1 of the 2019 Stanley Cup Final. So you could imagine the weight that was released when he netted the winner Wednesday against the Blackhawks.

“It’s nice. It was tough. It weighs [on you],” McAvoy said. “As much as you don’t want to say, you think about it and your confidence and everything. You feel like you can contribute a set amount and sometimes when it’s not there it takes a bit of a hit. But I said to these guys ‘thanks for keeping my confidence high,’ they all do. Everybody was saying it’s coming, it’s coming. Their response there was pretty neat. They were all busting my chops. Hopefully from there [I get] a little bit more confidence and maybe see more things go in for me.”

[COVERAGE OF BRUINS-RED WINGS BEGINS AT 12:30 P.M. ET – NBC]

While McAvoy’s goal drought weighed on him, the other parts of his game were just fine. He now has 20 assists and 21 points, second among Bruins defensemen, and leads the entire team with 23:12 of average ice time. His positive possession stats (52% Corsi via Natural Stat Trick) show that he’s been valuable in his top-pairing role, even if the goals weren’t there.

“He does a lot for us,” said Bruins defenseman Torey Krug. “Just from talking to him, he was getting a little anxious about [not scoring]. That’s natural and to be expected. But he hasn’t let it affect what he rest of the way, as far as being a great defenseman for this team and shutting down other team’s top lines and moving the puck and doing everything else well.”

The Bruins enter Sunday’s afternoon matchup with Detroit (12:30 p.m. ET; NBC) with the most points in the NHL, but within the Atlantic Division the Lightning are on their heels five points back. Saturday’s win over Arizona gives Boston six in a row with an upcoming schedule that is very friendly to them. With Tampa on the rise, no team can be overlooked as they try to keep a hold on the division lead.

Mike Emrick and Brian Boucher will call the matchup from Little Caesars Arena in Detroit, Mich. Kathryn Tappen hosts studio coverage with Mike Milbury and Keith Jones.  

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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.