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Bruins need Charlie McAvoy to play drastically better to beat Panthers

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Bruins need Charlie McAvoy to play drastically better to beat Panthers

Bruins need Charlie McAvoy to play drastically better to beat Panthers originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston

Charlie McAvoy has been one of the top 10 defensemen in the NHL for the last two yearsbut so far he hasn’t played anywhere near that level for the Boston Bruins in the 2024 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

And if the Bruins are going to eliminate the Panthers and reach the Eastern Conference finals for the first time since 2019, they need their No. 1 defenseman. play as a 9.5 million dollar player almost all games.

McAvoy is a workhorse for the Bruins. He plays in all situations and leads the team with 25:40 of ice time per game (3:23 more than any teammate), which also ranks No. 6 among all players in the 2024 playoffs. The Bruins They’re relying on McAvoy to make a hugely positive impact in all three zones, but we’ve yet to see him do it consistently over the past two weeks.

In fact, the Bruins have been largely outplayed during McAvoy’s 191:29 minutes in nine playoff games.

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McAvoy was less than stellar, to say the least, during the Bruins’ 6-1 loss in Game 2 of their second-round series against the Panthers on Wednesday night.

He played 13:52 at 5-on-5, and the Panthers had a 16-4 advantage in shot attempts, a 6-2 advantage in shots on net, a 7-1 advantage in scoring opportunities and a 2-1 goals. in those minutes. The opponent is not supposed to dominate at that level when your best defenseman is on the ice.

McAvoy was unable to clear the puck along the boards in the defensive zone before the Panthers’ second goal. He lost his stick in the process, making it difficult to prevent Panthers captain Aleksander Barkov from scoring the goal in front of the net.

Bruins goalie Jeremy Swayman couldn’t locate the puck on the Panthers’ third goal with 0.3 seconds left in the second period because McAvoy (and Brad Marchand) blocked it. If McAvoy is going to occupy that ice right in front of his goalie, he needs to block the shot.

The Bruins were also sloppy to start the third period. The Panthers’ first shot on frame came off a McAvoy turnover. He threw the puck to center ice and Anton Lundell intercepted it, skated toward Swayman and shot. It didn’t result in a goal, but the Panthers increased their lead to 4-1 shortly after that sequence.

McAvoy fumbled the puck three times in Game 2. He is credited with 16 turnovers in nine playoff games, five more than any other player in the league after Wednesday’s action.

Puck handling is often one of the strengths of McAvoy’s skills. He is a smooth skater and a talented playmaker. He initiates the transition on ice with a good first pass outside of his own zone. But for some reason, he hasn’t looked very confident with the puck on his stick this postseason, and that’s hurting the Bruins.

McAvoy also had some tough moments in the Bruins’ first-round series win over the Toronto Maple Leafs. He did a poor job defending Auston Matthews in the Leafs star’s attack. Victory goal in the third period of the second game..

He also had some shaky moments with the puck in that series, including a turnover in the first period of Game 7 that could have resulted in a Leafs goal. It was one of three gifts to McAvoy in Game 7.

It’s not just McAvoy’s defense and puck handling that has been disappointing in the playoffs. He’s also not creating much offense. The Bruins need more scoring from their blue line, especially considering the lackluster production of their top-six forwards over the last five games.

McAvoy hasn’t scored a playoff goal since Game 1 of the Bruins’ second-round series against the New York Islanders in 2021. That’s a 27-game postseason goal drought. The 26-year-old defenseman hasn’t scored a single point in the last five games, and only one of his four points (all assists) in the 2024 playoffs came at 5-on-5.

The Bruins haven’t scored a power-play goal since Game 4 of the first round. They are 0 for 9 with the man advantage in the last five games. McAvoy played 9:15 on the power play during that span, and the Bruins recorded just two shots and three scoring opportunities in those minutes. If the Bruins’ power play is going to be weaponized again, McAvoy is one of the players who must lead the charge to revive it.

McAvoy is a pillar of the franchise and it is important not to allow recency bias to cloud our view of his immense talent. But he’s also had some really bad moments in this playoff run and overall hasn’t lived up to expectations. He may be battling an injury, but if he’s healthy enough to be in the lineup, he needs to play much better.

The Bruins should have confidence that McAvoy will play better in the future. But it has to happen fast, or this series could start to get away from them.

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