Charlie McAvoy is toughing it out . . . and other Bruins thoughts
WINNIPEG, Manitoba — Thoughts and shots on the way home from a slowly melting Canadian prairie, where the Bruins dropped a close one to the Jets Thursday night:
■ Charlie McAvoy was no worse for wear after his fight Tuesday in Columbus with fellow young star Artemi Panarin. Just a couple of scabbed-over cuts on the hands for McAvoy, who scored a decisive win over Panarin, whom he outweighed by some 20 pounds.
Panarin reportedly has taken boxing lessons. McAvoy said his own technique was natural. There won’t be a rematch Saturday unless Panarin takes a run at Chuck ’Em Chuckie.
On Thursday, when coach Bruce Cassidy shortened his bench to offset the losses of a half-dozen key players, McAvoy skated a season-high 27:26 in the 4-3 loss to the Jets, scoring his sixth goal of the year (6-18—24 in 44 games) with a wicked snapshot off the left post.
He continues to look every bit the franchise-D-in-training the Bruins hope he’ll be. The passion is certainly there.
■ No word expected Friday on the status of David Pastrnak, Jake DeBrusk, Marcus Johansson, Torey Krug, Matt Grzelcyk, and Kevan Miller. The Bruins are likely to provide updates after Saturday’s morning skate in Brighton.
Krug (upper body, day to day) remained with the team through the end of the trip. He, DeBrusk (left foot), and Grzelcyk (right arm) appear closest to returns. If they participate in practice Monday, before the team travels to Long Island, they are likely to be on the trip.
■ The Bruins remain buoyant with optimism, despite losing three in a row for the first time since early December (and second time all year). They expected to win Thursday, despite missing three of their top four wingers and three of their top six defensemen with injuries.
Their depth is solid, and it’s a silver lining that players at the fringes of the lineup, such as Steven Kampfer and Paul Carey, are getting reps. Never know when that might come in handy. Perhaps next month.
■ The other side of it: Cassidy hoped to get vets Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand, David Krejci, and Zdeno Chara some rest down the stretch. That’s a lot harder with the current state of the team’s health and the schedule (after three on the road, they’re home Saturday vs. Columbus before starting another four-game swing Tuesday at the Islanders).
Home ice in an inevitable first-round series with Toronto is important enough that the Bruins won’t try to coast through the final 11 games. Despite the 0-3-0 road trip, they remain 2 points ahead of the Leafs.
■ The Bruins continue to stay a step ahead of the Leafs, who were doomed by slow starts in losses to Tampa Bay and Chicago this week before rallying to edge the Flyers, 7-6, on Friday night. If Boston is playing its brand — hard, heavy, and allowing nothing in the middle of the ice — it’s hard to see Toronto emerging from that series. The Leafs are looking shaky on the back end.
■ Meanwhile, Tampa Bay shows no sign of slowing down. The Lightning, who won their 54th game Thursday, have a shot at the NHL record of 62, set by Detroit in 1995-96.
The teams at the top of the list are considered some of the best ever: late ’70s Montreal (which won 60 in ’76-77, 59 in ’77-78, and 58 in ’75-76), 2005-06 Detroit (58 wins), 1970-71 Boston (57 wins) and mid ’80s Edmonton (57 wins in ’83-84 and 56 wins in ’85-86). Those are the top eight. With 11 games to play, bet on the Lightning to reach the Orr-Espo Bruins, at least.
■ Tampa Bay, which overcame a 3-0 deficit to beat the Red Wings Thursday, now owns the longest active winning streak (15-0-0) over a single team. They passed the Bruins, who are 14-0-0 against the Coyotes dating to Oct. 10, 2010. Arizona and Boston don’t play again until next season.
■ The Bruins must win eight of their final 11 to reach 50 wins for the second year in a row. It would be the second time in franchise history that has occurred (four years in a row under Tom Johnson and Bep Guidolin, 1970-74).
■ Rookie Trent Frederic, who started Thursday centering Joakim Nordstrom and Danton Heinen, had one of his stronger games. Winnipeg’s Brandon Tanev, who bit off more than he could chew Jan. 29 in his bout with Frederic, did not ask for a rematch.
■ David Backes turned the other cheek when Winnipeg’s Adam Lowry shook his gloves in the first period. Smart move by Backes, given how shorthanded the Bruins were. Bergeron said he liked what Backes brought to his line, and he had reason: No. 42 had his legs moving, and enough poise with the puck to be a contributor to that unit.
■ With Nordstrom quenching his 25-game, three-month goal drought, the longest scoreless streak among Boston forwards belongs to Backes and Sean Kuraly, both of whom last scored Jan. 17 in St. Louis.
■ Marchand’s eight-game point streak came to an end Thursday. He remains stuck on 85 points. His next point will set a career high.
■ Charlie Coyle, Chris Wagner, and Noel Acciari were sitting next to each other in the visitors’ dressing room after Wednesday’s practice, looking like the South Shore Kings’ version of the Hanson Brothers. Nearby, Kuraly and Heinen were playfully lamenting the addition of another New Englander (Weymouth’s Carey, recalled that day). Not enough room in there for all the hot air, Kuraly and Heinen agreed.
■ Ever seen a stick fly as high as Mark Scheifele’s did Thursday, when Chara’s upward spike sent it into the netting? I have, once: at a September preseason practice in Beijing, when Rask finished off a cracked goalie stick by snapping off the blade and tossing it into the net behind him. It didn’t come down on its own. It might still be there.