A bounce-back effort from Charlie McAvoy pays major dividends as Bruins blank Habs

Photo by Francois Lacasse/NHLI via Getty Images

Three games in four nights might seem pretty daunting, but Charlie McAvoy had to be thrilled with a chance to put Sunday’s loss against the Sabres in the rearview as quickly as possible.

The 20-year-old defenseman has been strong for the B’s since returning from a 20-game absence due to a concussion — but McAvoy (and most of the Bruins, for that matter) didn’t have much of an answer for Jack Eichel and the rest of Buffalo’s top line at TD Garden.

Both McAvoy and his partner, Matt Grzelcyk, bore the brunt of Eichel’s offensive salvo on Sunday, with both B’s blueliners saddled with two goals against in the 4-2 loss.

In 12:25 of 5v5 TOI in which Eichel and McAvoy were on the ice together, Boston posted a 47.83 Corsi-For Percentage, while the Sabres held the edge in high-danger scoring chances, 4-1. Ouch.

“Charlie’s played against top lines since he’s been here, essentially. So, he’s been replacing (Zdeno Chara’s) minutes against them," Bruce Cassidy said following Sunday's loss. "We’ve used (John) Moore on that spot and Grizz and Charlie have been a pair, so we thought they could do the job.”

It was a rough result, but one to be expected for a younger skater going toe-to-toe with one of the top pivots in the league. McAvoy’s uncharacteristic struggles shed light on a greater cause for concern for a B’s D corps starting to feel the loss of regulars like Chara and Kevan Miller. 

While Boston entered Monday’s road matchup against the Canadiens second in the league in goals allowed per game at 2.67, a few faults in the armor started to become more pronounced — with the Bruins surrendering four or more goals in four of its last eight games.

So what changed, then, during Boston’s 4-0 rout against the Habs?

Well, plenty did go the Bruins way.

For one, it helps when a sloppy outing from Montreal (24 giveaways) leads to easy entries and sustained offensive zone time for the B’s, while a relentless forecheck kept the Habs hemmed in — and made for a relatively easy night for Jaroslav Halak (22 saves in a shutout).

But on the blue line, it hard to ignore the lift that McAvoy provides for Boston’s D corps when he starts to hit his stride.