Charlie McAvoy had a good night last night. He scored his first NHL goal, added in an assist, drew a penalty and looked poised with the puck.
Charlie McAvoy also looked bad last night. He took three minor penalties (including two “I just got beaten” holding penalties), was a step behind the play at times and occasionally looked a little overwhelmed by the pace of play.
Isn’t hockey fun?
McAvoy’s night last night could end up proving to be the perfect snapshot of this entire Bruins season, as the Bruins’ fortunes will live and die by the highlights and lowlights of their infusion of young talent.
On the whole, there’s not a lot to complain about from McAvoy’s game last night, and this piece certainly isn’t intended to be a critique of his play; rather it was McAvoy who had the night that best represents the ups and downs of a rookie in the NHL.
These ups and downs are going to be a hallmark of this Bruins season, and how the team responds to the rookie roller coaster will play a huge role in determining how far this team goes.
“They all had good moments, they all had learning moments throughout the course of the game, as we expected,” said head coach Bruce Cassidy after the win. “But they stayed with it. That’s what they’re here for. They’re good players and they did their part, so we’re very pleased with them.”
One couldn’t help but be encouraged by the tone of Cassidy’s comments, which was echoed by veterans like David Krejci and Zdeno Chara in the locker room.
The organization appears to be in line on this issue: the kids are going to make mistakes, but overall, they’re going to make us a better team.
Of course, it’s easy to respond positively after a season-opening win. The true test will come when a DeBrusk turnover or McAvoy misread turns into a game-losing goal at the other end of the ice.
Both fans and management need to realize that these growing pains will be an important part of the process, and will be essential for the rookies (and the team) to get better.
The key word, really, is patience.
The veterans need to be patient when the rookies aren’t in the right spot. The coaching staff needs to be patient when the rookies make a silly play. The rookies themselves need to be patient when the points aren’t rolling in.
On the whole, these kids are going to make this team better, there’s little doubt about that. But it’s important that the Bruins have the patience to stick with “the process,” to steal a term from the Philadelphia 76ers.
For his part, Cassidy doesn’t appear to be worried.
“They’re good pros,” he said. “You see them working out after practice. They are not being led by the hand to do it. They are working on their game. They are receptive to the assistant coaches taking them aside. That’s a sign of maturity.”
Tonight, the rookie bounces and ups/downs went in the Bruins favor. The next game they may go the other way.
The Bruins (and their fans) are just going to have to buckle up and enjoy the ride.