Jakub Zboril Should Stay In Bruins Lineup, Get Look With Charlie McAvoy

Zboril has looked largely good the last two games

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Until something changes in his play, Jakub Zboril should remain a nightly fixture in the Boston Bruins lineup. He’s done plenty to deserve it.

Zboril started the season as the B’s seventh defenseman, but a string of poor performances from Mike Reilly saw him get healthy scratched, with Zboril getting opportunities in each of the last two games. He’s made good use of them, in particular Saturday’s win over the New Jersey Devils in which Zboril played so well head coach Bruce Cassidy basically had no choice but to leave him in Sunday.

The 24-year-old played well in that game, too, a win over the Montreal Canadiens. His finest moment came when he danced through the neutral zone in the second period, evading sticks before slipping a puck to Taylor Hall. Seconds later, Charlie McAvoy found the back of the net for the first of his two goals on the night.

At this point, Zboril is an NHL player. He hasn’t played in the AHL since the 2019-20 season halted, at which point he was Providence’s top blueliner. The Bruins let Zdeno Chara walk because they wanted to give players like Zboril an opportunity to prove they could hack it in the NHL. He did just that, proving to be a useful complementary piece alongside Kevan Miller last season before injuries and illness railroaded the end of his campaign.

At this point, Zboril is showing he can be a responsible two-way defenseman in the NHL, and it’s time for the Bruins to let him cook. He’s still young, and European defensemen tend to take longer to develop than most players. Not everyone is Miro Heiskanen, and that’s not a referendum on Zboril, rather reason to believe he has not yet hit his ceiling. The only way he’s going to get there is by playing.

Reilly won’t be out forever, he’s too valuable of a player. Connor Clifton seems like the most logical candidate to get taken out. Someone would have to play on their off side with four left-shot defensemen available, but hear us out on a take.

Put Zboril with McAvoy.

First, the numbers (all from Natural Stat Trick).

— Zboril and McAvoy have played 119:24 together 5-on-5 this season and last .
— Their Corsi For percentage is 58.30%,
— Nine Bruins goals have been scored when they on the ice together, with only three against.

So, there’s enough of a sample size to suggest that they can work well enough together. Then, when you take a step back, it could help the Bruins’ defense from an overall balance standpoint.

Zboril goes with McAvoy, and in doing so the latter doesn’t have to over-extend himself in any particular zone. He gets a deft puck-mover in the offensive zone with Zboril, who will help him create offense from the blue line, all without McAvoy needing to consistently cover up for Zboril in the defensive zone.

That allows for Brandon Carlo and Matt Grzelcyk to play together, while Derek Forbort and Reilly go on the bottom pairing, with one playing on their off-side.

Where exactly the pieces fit is less the point here, rather that Zboril should keep getting opportunities to play. If he continues at the level he’s shown the last two nights and gets to play consistent NHL hockey for the first time since April, the Bruins could reap the benefits.

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