“Smart players make smart plays,” Boston goaltender Tuukka Rask said in a video call after that game.
As instrumental as Chara was in McAvoy’s development, his departure may have accelerated it. Ever since McAvoy has been in the league, “he’s been an elite puck mover,” Bruins Coach Bruce Cassidy said in a video call. When the Bruins gathered for training camp, Cassidy encouraged McAvoy to shoot more and through 15 games McAvoy has landed 29 on net, the best pace of his career.
“I’ve always been a pass-first guy, but I’m trying to change that to shoot when the play is there,” McAvoy said in a video call. With Chara and Krug gone and Matt Grzelcyk having missed nine of the last 11 games because of injuries, McAvoy’s importance to the Bruins has only grown.
“Whenever you’re asked to have more responsibility and given more opportunity, you want to take it and run with it,” he said.
McAvoy’s impact isn’t limited to offense. With the Bruins leading a first-round series 2-1 against Carolina last year but trailing by a goal in the third period of Game 4, McAvoy lined up Jordan Staal as he was wheeling out of his zone and knocked Staal, four inches taller and 12 pounds heavier, off his feet and out of the game with a clean hit.
“Boy, did that change the tenor of the game,” Cassidy said.
Boston tied the score 14 seconds later, won Game 4 and ended the first-round series in five games. McGuire cited it as an example of McAvoy’s ability to know which of his skills are most needed at any particular moment in a game.
“He can influence a game in a lot of ways,” McGuire said. “With his size, his strength, his skill level and his aggressiveness.”