Civian: Paging Charlie McAvoy

Sara Civian
April 22, 2018 - 3:49 am

Greg M. Cooper/USA Today Sports

As a general rule, when a defenseman does his job it flies under the radar. That's just how it goes when you’re in the business of mistake prevention.

Unless, of course, you’re Charlie McAvoy.

The immediate impact McAvoy made when the Bruins tossed him into the ring in the 2017 playoffs has held up through his first full season in the NHL. He had three assists in that six-game series with Ottawa, but from the jump there was something much more compelling about him.

The kid got a Gordie Howe Hat Trick at 19 years old -- that has to be the most efficient way to cement yourself as a fan favorite in Boston. Then there's this perpetual look on his face like he just found out he won a trip to Disney World. And not that Zdeno Chara is showing many signs of slowing down, but there's the notion that the more slack McAvoy can pick up, the longer Chara can keep going. There’s also the open-heart surgery he underwent and played off like a check up back in January.

There are so many reasons to love McAvoy, but the way he forces you to notice him on the ice is where it all starts. He commands your attention because he has completely embraced the neutral zone, an area so many of his peers treat so passively.

He owns that place at his best, and he doesn’t sacrifice the whole “preventing mistakes” thing to do it. Sometimes he’ll pass the puck through, sometimes he’ll come along with it, but either way it’s loud and you notice.

That’s why his good nights don’t fly under the radar. It’s also why a 20-year-old defenseman with one point through five games almost acted as his team’s spokesperson after Saturday’s Game 5 loss.

“Shame on us for not coming out better,” he said. “We knew they were going to come out like that, their backs are against the wall...not a good effort by us.”

It’s not McAvoy’s job to rack up points, but he was third on the team with 22:25 TOI and only managed one shot on goal, one hit, and two blocks.

Ok, so maybe he was just really focused on defense?

Maybe not.

“That second goal, I gotta turn around and try to get my stick in that position where that puck is,” McAvoy said. “I gotta watch that and I gotta be better on those matchups. Definitely not (Tuukka Rask)’s fault tonight. Whenever he gets pulled we know that we didn’t do our job.”                                    

If he didn’t show up to his 9-to-5 in front of Rask, he called in sick to his side hustle in the neutral zone as well. You can’t really pin transitions on one player, and battles lost early on are only part of the reason Game 6 exists. It’s just...you’ve come to expect McAvoy almost singlehandedly flossing the puck out of the defensive end and through the neutral zone.

Somehow, that’s his normal.

Transition game has become his identity, so when it goes missing it’s like he’s gone missing.

In the context of this single game, it became a non-issue when Bruce Cassidy’s Hail Mary appeared as McAvoy and David Krejci at the point of a five-on-five.The third period comeback effort as a whole should calm your most serious concerns headed into Game 6, anyway.

“We’ll be fine,” he said. “We’re as confident as ever in here.”

It seemed as sincere a reaction as any, but zoom out on this series. Where is ‘Chuckie Bright Lights’ McAvoy?

Don’t you think the happy-go-lucky rookie who once scored a shootout winner, pointed at the sky, then shrugged it off like it was nothing is in there somewhere?

Maybe he needs some brighter lights to remind him. He’ll be getting those in Game 6.

 

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