Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports

McAvoy shows his Doughty side in Bruins’ win over Montreal

Matt Kalman
December 17, 2018 - 11:15 pm

Bruins defenseman Charlie McAvoy is often compared to Los Angeles’ Drew Doughty.

A handful more performances by McAvoy similar to what he produced during a 4-0 win at Montreal on Monday and people may start comparing the Kings’ defenseman to McAvoy.

It took McAvoy just five seconds to throw the first hit of the game against Montreal first-line wing Tomas Tatar and McAvoy ate the Canadiens alive the rest of the night. Sure Jaroslav Halak made several high-end saves during his 22-save performance, but McAvoy was instrumental in limiting the Canadiens’ Grade-A scoring chances.

McAvoy finished with two assists and six hits in 19:47 of ice time (with the lopsided score coach Bruce Cassidy was about to manage McAvoy’s minutes). He did a little bit of everything, and defense partner Matt Grzelcyk also had a solid game over 18:54 of ice time.

Albeit the Canadiens don’t have a player the caliber of Buffalo’s Jack Eichel, or Pittsburgh’s Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, who all tormented the Grzelcyk-McAvoy pair during the Bruins’ two-game losing streak. And life is still going continue to be difficult against some of the best lines in the NHL until the injured Zdeno Chara and Patrice Bergeron return. But the Bruins are dreaming of a world where McAvoy, who will turn just 21 this week, takes the mantle of No. 1 defenseman from Chara and is a game-changer at both ends of the rink.

On Monday, in the Bruins’ third game in four nights, and against Boston’s archrival with crucial points on the line, the Bruins got a glimpse of what life might be like with the next Drew Doughty anchoring their blue line.

Cave line contributions

The Joakim Nordstrom-Colby Cave-David Backes line produced like a first line, probably isn’t skilled enough to be a second line, but might be a solid third line once the Bruins lineup is healthy – got it? Nordstrom scored a first-period goal and Cave scored his first NHL goal late in the second period. That line combined for eight shots on net.

There’s not enough skill for that to be a second line on a contending team but if Patrice Bergeron and Jake DeBrusk are back in the top six, would it be crazy to think Cave’s line could be the third line?

Ryan Donato, Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson and Danton Heinen might have something to say about that, but so far it’s the Cave line that’s produced actual points the past couple games and the JFK line that’s created chance but come up empty.

Going fourth

Regardless of what combination the Bruins pick for their third line when they’re fully healthy, they’re going to better be able to survive off nights by their third line if the current fourth line keeps playing at its current pace.

It’s almost malpractice that it took this long, and for Sean Kuraly to suffer a facial injury, for the Bruins to realize Kuraly belongs on left wing with Noel Acciari at center and Chris Wagner on his natural right side. In the three games the line has been set up like that it has played with Merlot Line-level ferocity, and against the Canadiens it set the tone early. No matter how quickly Kuraly’s nose heels and he sheds his astronaut mask, he should be on the wing for the long haul.

American pride

Torey Krug’s as American as they come so he must be proud to share the Bruins team record for career assists by a U.S.-born player with Mike O’Connell. Krug assisted on Brad Marchand’s power-play goal in the third period for assist No. 199.

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