Most of Jim Montgomery’s messages have been sinking in as the Bruins have compiled a 37-5-4 record in his first season as coach. But the one about the team’s defensemen getting involved in the offense might not have gotten through until recently.
In fact, Charlie McAvoy dates the blue liners’ commitment to going for the net to the morning skate before a Jan. 12 game against the Seattle Kraken.
“Their D corps were first in the league in goals scored,” McAvoy said. “That kind of got us wondering like, ‘Where are we in that?’ We started picking numbers, how many we [scored] this year and trying to add it up and it was kind of ‘Let’s try and be dangerous when we can. And let’s try and contribute.’ Everyone has it in their game.
“And it really means a lot to the team and to the forwards when we’re able to contribute. Good things happen.”
Nothing clicked that day, as the Bruins lost, 3-0, to the Kraken. But Bruins defensemen have found the range in each contest since, launching the team on a five-game winning streak heading into Tuesday’s visit to Montreal.
“It’s been nice to see everyone getting involved and scoring goals,” McAvoy said after producing a goal and assist in a 4-0 win over the San Jose Sharks Sunday.
Hampus Lindholm gave the Bruins the lead and McAvoy upped it with a solo move, splitting Erik Karlsson and Timo Meier.
“I got a little lucky,” McAvoy said. “It ended up going off my shin pad and back to me. But I thought they were kind of flat-footed and I had some speed, so I thought I would try to wiggle through there, and it worked out.”
Lindholm got everything started with a wrister, finishing after Brad Marchand’s successful attempt at skating rings around the Sharks in the opening period. McAvoy then took a David Pastrnak layoff and made a dizzying move or two before making it 2-0 against the team of his former coach at Boston University, David Quinn, at 4:08 of the second period.
“I wasn’t trying to one-up [Lindholm],” McAvoy said. “He had a sick goal and he’s a really special player. Like I said, got a little lucky with it bouncing back up there.”
The D scoring streak started with Matt Grzelcyk converting against Toronto and Philadelphia. On a New York road trip, it was McAvoy and Derek Forbort against the Islanders and Connor Clifton against the Rangers.
“You’re seeing it from our back end as a whole, the way they’ve jumped into plays,” Nick Foligno said. “They’ve kind of made it a four-man front instead of a three-man front, and even a five-man front sometimes. And they’re so responsible at both ends, it’s made it so much more dangerous.
“Those guys are so capable. When Charlie starts a move, he can create a lot and score as well. These guys have a ton of skill back there and they just can showcase it now. They’re so committed on the defensive side, it’s a privilege to have those guys behind us.”
McAvoy, who missed the early part of the season recovering from shoulder surgery, upped his totals to four goals and 25 assists. Last year, McAvoy compiled a career-high 56 points (10 goals, 46 assists).
Asked about his part in the D scoring spree, McAvoy replied: “Are you kidding? Scoring goals is the funnest thing in the game. It takes you back when you were a mini-mite.
“It doesn’t matter If you’re 5 years old or 25, scoring goals is fun. So it’s nice when everyone is scoring goals. it really comes back to game planning and our O-zone strategy, where we can get into it, and it’s up to us to use our instincts.”
The Bruins recalled forward Marc McLaughlin from Providence for a road trip that will include stops in Montreal, Tampa Bay (Thursday), Florida (Saturday), Carolina (Sunday), and Toronto (Feb. 1). McLaughlin, a former Boston College star and US Olympian from North Billerica via Cushing Academy, converted for the Bruins in his NHL debut and totaled three goals in 11 games last season.
Frank Dell'Apa can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.