Charlie McAvoy’s mature approach to goal drought paid off in Bruins win over Chicago

Matt Kalman
February 06, 2020 - 12:27 am

You can stop comparing him to goal-scoring Nashville goalie Pekka Rinne, to former Bruins goal-drought sufferer Matt Bartkowski or to any sports accomplishment that took eons to achieve.

Charlie McAvoy has scored a goal in the 2019-20 NHL season.

The drought was 51 games this season, 55 regular-season games dating back to last March 27, 57 games if you include playoff games back to Game 1 of the 2019 Stanley Cup Final.

And McAvoy’s long nightmare ended Wednesday in overtime to give the Bruins a 2-1 win at the Chicago Blackhawks, extending the Bruins’ winning streak to five games.

Funny thing, though, McAvoy’s time without scoring a goal wasn’t a nightmare at all. The 22-year-old defenseman has always been mature beyond his years – witness him making his NHL debut and playing like a veteran in Boston’s opening-round playoff-series loss to Ottawa in 2017 – and he handled all the bad bounces, all the questions about his goal-less streak and even an annoying reporter asking him if he felt more pressure to score because a goalie had scored, as scoring (rightfully so) was the least important thing for someone playing on a top pair in the NHL to worry about.

Remember what he told that smart-ass reporter back on Jan. 10?

“I’ve hit posts and I’ve had so many chances. I don’t know, I’ve never seen this before. But I know that if I let it consume me, then I won’t play the game that I want to play. And part of the game that I want to play is getting production, points and stuff. It’s just been weird, it’s been a weird year. But I do like my game for stuff other than that. So I can’t sell out for that.”

In many ways McAvoy hasn’t taken the next step in his development this season, mostly because his offensive game hasn’t excelled. But he hasn’t regressed either. He leads the team in ice time at 23:09 a game, which unless you think coach Bruce Cassidy is a dope, is a pretty solid indication of what the coaching staff thinks of him and how he’s played most nights. Remember those minutes are always difficult ones against some of the best offensive opponents in the league.

McAvoy leads the team in blocked shots with 104. And he’s tied for second in hits with Sean Kuraly (111), leading all Bruins defensemen in that department. He’s been getting the job done and continuing to learn in his third full pro season (sure feels like he’s been around longer).

The Bruins’ 2016 first-round draft pick takes a lot of heat for his reluctance to shoot, but somehow he’s almost averaging as many shots on net this season as he did last (1.45 compared to 1.46). That number should probably be a little higher, although he scored seven goals in 54 games last season.

The Bruins might have caught a break when Drake Caggiula's apparent go-ahead goal with 1:05 left in regulation was waived off. And then McAvoy made his own break by starting Boston’s breakout and then finishing the game with a drive to the net more appropriate for a forward than a defenseman.

McAvoy did a great job handling the wait for his first goal. Now he just has to make sure he doesn’t get greedy and get away from what the Bruins need most from him: solid defense and decision-making the rest of the way through this season.

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