BOSTON — The Bruins did about as well as they could in their first-round Stanley Cup playoff series against the Ottawa Senators, given all their injuries and the young, inexperienced players forced into action as a result.
Boston was eliminated from Round 1 with a 3-2 overtime loss in Game 6 on Sunday at TD Garden.
Losing never feels good, but the team’s resiliency throughout the series — one where every game was decided by a single goal — was impressive.
Here are three positives from Round 1 to take into next season.
Charlie McAvoy Looks Like The Real Deal
The 19-year-old defenseman was Boston’s first-round pick in the 2016 NHL draft, and he was tremendous in his first six pro games. The poise that McAvoy showed with the puck was beyond his years, and he was able to use his smooth skating and high hockey IQ to maneuver out of situations in which most rookies would turn over the puck.
One of the most impressive attributes of McAvoy’s game was playing alongside captain Zdeno Chara on the first pairing — and the tough matchups against the opposing team’s best players that come with it — and logging more than 25 minutes per contest. That’s a heavy workload for someone who had zero pro experience before this series.
In six games, the Bruins controlled 52.05 percent of 5-on-5 puck possession (using Corsi For percentage) and posted a plus-12 differential in scoring chances and plus-5 mark in high-danger shot attempts with McAvoy on the ice. That’s pretty good.
McAvoy showed throughout the series why he has the potential to be a first-pairing defenseman for many years.
Young Players Earned Valuable Playoff Experience
The list of Bruins who made their playoff debuts in this series is a long one. It includes defensemen Tommy Cross, Joe Morrow, Colin Miller and McAvoy, as well as forwards David Pastrnak, Riley Nash, Sean Kuraly, Tim Schaller, Ryan Spooner and Frank Vatrano.
Experience is the best teacher, and it’s quite valuable because it will motivate these players to work hard to return to the playoffs in future seasons and better prepare them for when those times come.
“I think they have a lot of build from,” Bruins center Patrice Bergeron said. “We talked about how it’s a different game in the postseason, and I think we’ve all realized it. The pace and the intensity — it’s a game of inches every night. I think for the young guys it’s definitely a great experience and something you can’t buy. I know it’s going to go a long way for next year.”
Bruce Cassidy Is A Quality NHL Coach
Cassidy replaced Claude Julien on Feb. 7, and the Bruins made the playoffs by closing the regular season with a 18-8-1 record. Cassidy tweaked the Bruins’ system to improve their transition game and produce more scoring from the blue line.
In Cassidy’s first postseason with the B’s, he made several good lineup decisions, most notably replacing Ryan Spooner with Sean Kuraly on the fourth line for Game 5. Kuraly scored two goals in that game, including the winner in double overtime, to extend Boston’s season.
Cassidy also did the best he could with his blue line, which was ravaged by injuries to important players such as Torey Krug, Brandon Carlo and Adam McQuaid. Cassidy put the right pairings together and wasn’t afraid to give young guys such as McAvoy more and more minutes in clutch situations as the series progressed.
The Bruins haven’t announced if they will remove the interim tag from Cassidy’s title, but the players all had plenty of praise for the coach after Game 6. When asked during his postgame presser if he wants to return as Bruins coach next season, Cassidy said “Absolutely. One-hundred percent.”
The Bruins would be wise to bring him back.
Thumbnail photo via Greg M. Cooper/USA TODAY Sports Images
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