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Charlie McAvoy remembers the fear.

The Boston Bruins rookie was playing against the Edmonton Oilers on Nov. 26 at TD Garden when his heart started beating irregularly and fast.

McAvoy also remembers the good news.

“I think it was relief first off to find out it was not life-threatening and not dangerous to my overall health,” the 20-year-old defenseman said during a news conference at Warrior Ice Arena on Monday, his first comments since undergoing a procedure Jan. 22 to correct his condition.

“To realize that obviously I’m in there, kind of nervous, was this going to be something that’s really bad, will I be able to play again or anything like that? So to find out that it was something that was not dangerous … something I could still continue to play with, that was a good takeaway from the overall situation.”

McAvoy said he’d had similar episodes in the past but the one against the Oilers was the longest. He alerted team internist Dr. David Finn and trainer Don Del Negro. Tests confirmed Finn’s diagnosis of a supraventricular tachycardia, a condition not considered dangerous.

An ablation, the removal of tissue, was done through a small catheter that entered through the lower abdomen and up into the heart.

Doctors assured McAvoy he could keep playing with little risk of anything worse than another episode. He continued to play and didn’t miss a game until the day after the procedure.

“Charlie talked about the time frame about when the decision was made, it was about the best medical decision for Charlie regardless of what games he was going to miss,” Bruins general manager Don Sweeney said. “That’s probably been one of the most amazing things, is how well he’s handled knowing that this was on deck and going out there and playing at the level he was. It says a lot about him.”

McAvoy leads NHL rookies in ice time per game (22 minutes, 49 seconds) and has five goals and 20 assists in 45 games. He hadn’t missed a game until Jan. 23 and gave no indication of what he was going through.

He put aside the prospect of another episode but was buoyed by knowing there was a plan should he have a reoccurrence.

“Were it to come back, I knew I would be fine,” McAvoy said. “We kind of talked about a little strategy if it did come back, kind of remove myself from the game and allow myself time to get my heart back [to normal] and feel good. Luckily we didn’t get to that point.”

McAvoy is to have a follow-up appointment with his doctor this week when his path to returning to the lineup will be determined. The Bruins initially predicted he would miss two weeks.

Under doctor’s orders he did no physical activity in the week after his procedure. But Monday he briefly skated on his own before the Bruins held their first on-ice practice since the All-Star break.

McAvoy doesn’t expect his play to be much different when he returns. Maybe he’ll need a little extra time to get in full shape, but that’s it.

“I’m still the same person,” he said. “I’m one week removed and I feel good. So we’ll get back out there and we’ll get on the ice and see how things are going. And when the time is right I’ll get back out there.”

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With an impressive first half of the season in the books, three Bruins forwards are being recognized for their performances on the ice. Patrice Bergeron, Charlie McAvoy and Zdeno Chara were all included on the Professional Hockey Writers Association’s Midseason Awards list announced on Friday. The awards, which included the eight traditional end-of-season honors and two new awards, were voted on by more than 150 writers and broadcasters and 2,000 fans.

Bergeron finished first in voting for the Selke Trophy, awarded to the forward who best excels in the defensive aspects of the game, in front of Sean Couturier of the Philadelphia Flyers and the Los Angeles Kings’ Anze Kopitar. Bergeron has already won the award four times during his career, claiming it in 2012, 2014, 2015 and 2017. If he earns the honor again, he will break his tie with former Montreal Canadiens forward Bob Gainey to become the first player in NHL history to win it five times.

The 14-year veteran is having yet another stellar season both offensively and defensively. Bergeron has registered 20 goals and 22 assists for 42 points in 42 games this season while winning 57.4% of his faceoffs and accumulating 39 takeaways.

The Calder Trophy, awarded to the player selected as the most proficient in his first year of competition, featured rookie defenseman Charlie McAvoy as a finalist. The Long Beach, New York native finished third in voting behind New York Islanders forward Mathew Barzal and Vancouver Canucks forward Brock Boeser. McAvoy has been turning heads in his first season, tallying five goals and 20 assists for 25 points through his first 45 games, while racking up 102 hits and 56 blocked shots. He will look to become the first Bruin to win the Calder since goaltender Andrew Raycroft did so in the 2003-2004 season.

One of the new honors featured on the list was the Rod Langway Award, given to the defenseman who best excels in the defensive aspect of the game. Bruins captain Zdeno Chara finished second in voting behind Los Angeles King defenseman Drew Doughty and Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Victor Hedman. With 1,397 games under his belt through nearly 20 seasons, Chara continues to shut down his opponents’ top threats, blocking 83 shots and throwing 97 hits in 47 games this season. His +25 rating is second in the NHL behind only Vegas Golden Knights forward William Karlsson’s +26.

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Brad Marchand spoke on Thursday morning for the first time since the National Hockey League’s Department of Player Safety announced his five-game suspension for elbowing New Jersey Devils forward Marcus Johansson in Boston on Tuesday night.

The Bruins winger addressed a large media contingent following Boston’s pregame skate at the Canadian Tire Centre ahead of Thursday night’s tilt with the Ottawa Senators.

“I’ve been trying to play a certain way for a while now, and it was never my intent to get into a situation like this, to injure Marcus, so hopefully he has a full healthy recovery very quickly,” said Marchand. “I let my teammates down – I know that – and I let the organization down. I have to be better, there’s no question.

“I respect the league’s decision on the matter. They’re in the right to make the decisions that they do, and I’m going to live with it.”

The suspension, which was levied on Wednesday night, marks the eighth time Marchand has been disciplined by the NHL (six suspensions, two fines) in his career. This one comes at a time during which the Bruins have collected points in 17 straight games. Marchand is also leading the league in scoring this month with 18 points (6 goals, 12 assists).

“The last thing I want to do is do anything to hurt the team, and that’s obviously what I’ve done here. It wasn’t what I was trying to do,” said Marchand. “We have a great team, and they’re going to battle hard and do everything they can to win the games. I’ll be there rooting them on, but I put my team in a disadvantage at the end, and I feel very bad about that.”

Marchand is allowed to participate in this weekend’s All-Star festivities in Tampa and said he will still attend. It is the 29-year-old’s second consecutive selection.

“I’m going to go. I’m very proud of that opportunity,” said Marchand. “It is something I’ve worked very hard for and never thought I’d have the opportunity to do, so it’s something I’m very proud about, and I’m going to go and enjoy every second of it.”

Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy has had a relationship with Marchand since the winger’s first professional season in Providence, when Cassidy was then an assistant with the P-Bruins. Cassidy chatted with Marchand during Thursday’s morning skate and encouraged him to think about what he would like his legacy to be.

“The thing with Brad is I’ve known him since he was a first-year player, so I know him as a person,” said Cassidy. “That’s what sometimes has disappointed me, that gets lost. I hear opinions out there, they don’t know him as a teammate, as a father, the work he puts in to be a better player. After games he’s always with children in the family room signing something – he’s just a great person with a big heart.

“But Brad does have to take responsibility for his actions, he’s aware of that. He’ll sit his five games and we’ll welcome him back.”

Despite this latest misstep, Marchand believes he has made progress in buttoning up his on-ice actions.

“Obviously, I want to be known as a good player. I’ve worked very hard to become a decent player in this league, and things like this obviously hinder that,” said Marchand. “It’s something that I will continue to work on and be better at, but [Cassidy] is not wrong. I think that some things behind the scenes get lost when things like this happen, but I think that I have good teammates and the organization, my family and friends, they know what I’m trying to do and where I’m trying to be and how much I care about this team, organization, the guys in the room.

“That’s not going to change. Obviously, I am going to be better in areas. I’m going to continue to work on it, but it’s just another step in the road.”

With Marchand out of the lineup, Anders Bjork was recalled from Providence on an emergency basis on Wednesday night. Bjork played in eight games for the P-Bruins after being assigned on Jan. 3 and notched two goal and two assists. The 21-year-old, who has four goals and eight assists in 28 games with Boston this season, will likely start in Marchand’s spot alongside Patrice Bergeron and David Pastrnak against the Senators.

“He’s played well. He started offensively very well,” Cassidy said of Bjork’s play in Providence. “What we’re trying to get out of Anders is play a little bit more straight line, understanding when he can make plays, when he’s got to manage the puck better. That was the biggest issue for him coming to this level, where the open ice is, how to get there.

“He’s been working on that. We’ll see where he’s at. He played very well for us earlier this year. We’re confident he can do the job. We’re not asking anyone to replaced Brad – that would be unfair – but just to go play his game and contribute.”

 

Bjork is hoping to make the most of his chance to play on what has been the hottest line in hockey for the better part of two months.

“It’s exciting. It’s obviously a great opportunity, tons of players would die to be in my position right now,” said Bjork. “I’ve just got to stay focused and make the most of it, do what I can to keep up with the line and be a positive impact.”

Acciari Out, Too

In addition to the absences of Marchand and Charlie McAvoy (ablation procedure), Boston will also be without Noel Acciari on Thursday night as the winger battles a lower-body injury. Frank Vatrano will slide into his place on the fourth line.

“Hopefully the All-Star Break will do him some good,” said Cassidy. “And then we’ll see where he’s at on Tuesday against Anaheim.”

Pushing Through

As they did during the season’s first six weeks when they were beset by an unseemly amount of injuries, the Bruins will have to battle through some adversity as they look to extend their points streak to 18 games.

“We’ve had to find ways and simplify our game, make it blue collar and do what we do best,” said Backes. “This is no different of a scenario than if [Marchand's] hurt or suspended. Same with Charlie being out. Hopefully it’s short term and we’re going to have to patch holes, different guys step up to be the hero each night.

“Those guys are significant players, but we’ve done it before and we’ll have to do it again. Every team’s got injuries this time of year or guys out.”

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Matt Grzelcyk knows perhaps better than anyone in the Bruins dressing room what the New England Patriots mean to the region. The 24-year-old blue liner grew up in Charlestown as a Patriots fan and has watched firsthand the team’s dominant run of five Super Bowl titles over the last 17 seasons.

“I can remember when they won their first Super Bowl,” said Grzelcyk. “Obviously they’ve been unbelievable, this stretch they’ve gone on is insane. There’s a reason why they’re so good, you can see how they are on the sidelines with each other, how passionate they are.

“It gives us a little bit of motivation to try to keep up with them. It’s awesome to see and it’s been great to be a part of it and see it firsthand growing up in Boston.”

Grzelcyk was one of several Bruins who attended the Pats’ thrilling 24-20, comeback win over the Jacksonville Jaguars on Sunday afternoon in the AFC Championship Game at Gillette Stadium. Also in attendance were Torey Krug, Charlie McAvoy, Riley Nash, David Pastrnak, Paul Postma, and Tuukka Rask.

“It’s nice to be a Patriots fan the last few years, a great day yesterday,” said David Krejci. “A few guys went to the game so I’m sure they had a blast. We do have lots of Americans on the team, they have their own team, but playing here I think you have to become a Patriots fan, they always win. It’s good to be a Boston fan.”

The Pats’ victory clinched a spot in their eighth Super Bowl of the Tom Brady-Bill Belichick era, an unprecedented run of success that has highlighted the golden age of Boston sports.

“You can’t help but get caught up in it. I’ve been in New England 10 years…you can see how teams continually can’t put the Patriots way…they’re in people’s heads,” said Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy, who visited Patriots training camp this past summer and met with owner Robert Kraft.

“It’s an amazing quality that this team has, the culture that they’ve created, their identity. We’d love to be that, where we’re coming at you, we’re coming at you and it doesn’t matter what happens right until the bitter end. We’ll see where that goes.

“You’ve got to be champions to do that, there’s guys in this locker room that were and would like to again. The younger guys that haven’t hopefully that’s one of the things that they embrace.”

Grzelcyk, one of the Bruins’ five rookies, believes the Patriots provide plenty of lessons he and his fellow youngsters can draw from.

“I think they’re just really good at not overcomplicating things,” said Grzelcyk. “The motto is do your job, just very simple, just go out there and do what’s asked of you. I think that’s something that’s stuck with us. We’re trying to take it one game at a time right now and apply that to our game.”

One of the other special things about Boston sports is the camaraderie between all the teams in town. Last spring, Patriots safety Patrick Chung joined the B’s for a skate at the end of practice and earlier this month Rob Gronkowski, Brandin Cooks, Rex Burkhead, Jordan Richards, Shea McClellin, and Geneo Grissom attended the B’s game against the Carolina Hurricanes.

Cooks, who purchased a Patrice Bergeron jersey before the game, then joined his teammates for a visit with Boston’s alternate captain following his four-goal outburst in the 7-1 win over the ‘Canes.

In addition to Cassidy’s visit to training camp, a group of Bruins, which included Rask, Krug, Adam McQuaid, Kevan Miller, Nash, Brandon Carlo, and Tim Schaller, took in a Patriots practice earlier this fall.

“Year after year, they’ve been really good. Obviously Tom Brady has been around a long time and they have a good coach. It’s fun to watch,” said Krejci. “I picked good years to be playing for Boston and becoming a Patriots fan…once our games are done we try to support the other teams as well.”

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Boston Bruins defenseman Charlie McAvoy underwent a heart procedure to treat an abnormal rhythm and will be in recovery for two weeks.

The 20-year-old complained of heart palpitations after a Nov. 26 game and was diagnosed with a supraventricular tachycardia. The team said in a release that the condition was not dangerous, but it does cause significant symptoms. McAvoy had been cleared to play but was monitored closely.

McAvoy finally decided to be treated and underwent an ablation at Massachusetts General Hospital, where he will stay overnight. During the procedure, scar tissue is created inside the heart at the place where the irregular heartbeat is originating.

McAvoy was taken by the Bruins in the first round of the 2016 draft and made his NHL debut in last season’s playoffs. This year he has five goals, 20 assists and is a plus-18 in 45 games. He has played a big role in the Bruins’ surprise season. Thought to be a rebuilding team, Boston has the second-most points in the Eastern Conference.

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Coming into the season, the Boston Bruins appeared to meet all the qualifications of a team whose window to win a Stanley Cup was closed.

The B’s looked as if they would be heavily reliant on stars who were either in the latter years of their prime or past it; they’d made questionable trades of young stars and had a goalie coming off back-to-back mediocre seasons.

Instead, Boston is not only competitive, but they’re also making a case as the NHL’s second-most-dangerous team behind the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Boston ranks No. 3 in team Corsi for percentage, second in even-strength goals for percentage, ninth in power play percentage and eighth on the penalty kill.

Simply put: The Bruins’ Stanley Cup window is wide-open.


Elite players are still elite

Years down the road, we might find that age curves shifted in the 2010s. With an emphasis on health, fewer fights and head hits as well as more work being done to study factors like dehydration and workload, it’s possible that hockey players’ primes will last into their 30s instead of ending in the late 20s, as current age curve models suggest.

The Bruins could be evidence of this effect. Forwards Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand, ages 32 and 29, respectively, are having among their best seasons in 2017-18.

With a hat trick on Thursday night, Bergeron has 19 goals and 19 assists in 39 games. His 57.9 percent Corsi for percentage ranks third in the NHL among forwards, with only Chicago’s Brandon Saad and Columbus’ Artemi Panarin ahead of him. When Bergeron has been on the ice this season, the B’s have taken 161 more shots than their opponents and outscored them 30-9.

Bergeron’s longtime linemate Marchand is leading the team with 46 points, placing him just inside the top 20 in the league despite missing a handful of games. He ranks fifth in even-strength scoring rate, with 3.39 points per 60 minutes.

These numbers are all on par or better than when the Bruins won the Stanley Cup in 2010-11. Bergeron produced 57 points in 2010-11 with a 54.2 Corsi for percentage, while Marchand had 41 points in 77 games.

Zdeno Chara, who will turn 41 in March, is still playing more than 23 minutes per game, down about just two minutes from 2010-11. And while his shot differential numbers have slipped from seasons past, the 6-foot-9 blueliner still isn’t letting anyone get in front of the net. With Chara on the ice, the Bruins have produced 158 high-danger chances to their opponents’ 129, according to Natural Stat Trick.

Veteran stars David Backes (33) and David Krejci (31) have missed time this season, but when in the lineup they are each making significant contributions. The former Blues captain has 18 points in 27 games and wins 52.9 percent of his faceoffs, while Krejci has 23 points in 26 games.

The combination of all of Boston’s veterans clicking at once has helped push the Bruins to an 8-0-2 record in their past 10 games and moved them into the top five in even-strength goals for and fewest goals allowed.

The youth movement

Bergeron, Marchand, Chara, Backes and Krejci aren’t driving the Bruins’ success alone. For a team that has rarely drafted early in the first round during the past decade, Boston has a remarkable number of key players under the age of 23 playing key roles. In fact, of the Bruins’ top six scorers, four are 23 and under.

That group starts with David Pastrnak, 21-year-old right winger flanking Bergeron and Marchand on Boston’s deadly top line. Last season, the Czech forward broke out to the tune of 70 points in 75 games. He’s been even better this season, with 41 points in 44 games.

The Bruins selected Pastrnak with the 25th overall pick in the 2014 draft. The knock on him was size and strength, but his high-end skill allowed an instant jump from playing in Sweden. Of all the players drafted in 2014, only Leon Draisaitl has more points than Pastrnak.

Another first-rounder Jake DeBrusk, 21, has made an immediate impact in his rookie campaign, scoring 20 even-strength points in 40 games while largely playing alongside Krejci.

The pleasant surprise of the group is Danton Heinen, a fourth-round pick in 2014 who scored more than a point per game at the University of Denver and had a solid 2016-17 in the minors. He’s made the jump smoothly, adding 19 even-strength points in 40 games, playing the majority of his minutes with Riley Nash and Backes.

The biggest difference-maker in the bunch is 20-year-old rookie defenseman Charlie McAvoy. He joined the Bruins in the postseason last spring and immediately took on a top-four role. He’s built on that experience this season, averaging 22:47 per game in ice time. The former Boston University blueliner has 24 points, 15 of which have come in even-strength assists. McAvoy has become a consistent puck-moving partner for Chara.

Boston’s collection of under-23s isn’t just bringing them value in the form of impressive production; those players are also allowing the B’s to survive huge veteran contracts.

Take the Chicago Blackhawks for example. With mega deals handed out to Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews, Chicago struggles to find cheap depth that will support its stars. For the Bruins, the total cap hit of DeBrusk, Heinen and McAvoy is just $2.65 million. Boston saved in per-season spending by doing a six-year deal with Pastrnak, whose cap hit is a reasonable $6.66 million.

The youngsters also give the Bruins the type of depth required to go deep in the postseason. Even if players like DeBrusk, Heinen and McAvoy are inexperienced, Boston has them playing alongside veterans who have made deep postseason runs.

The goalie

No matter how deep we dig into the numbers or what technology arises, we might never fully understand a team’s impact on goalie performance. But in Boston’s case, it’s pretty easy to draw a connection between a stronger, deeper team and a better defense corps this season helping out Tuukka Rask.

At his absolute peak, Rask’s even-strength save percentage was an otherworldly .943. That mark slipped for three straight seasons, all the way down to .919 in 2016-17. Normally a goalie’s even-strength numbers are more predictable from season to season than his overall save percentage, so a three-season slide would be cause for concern. But he’s rebounded to a .928 save percentage in 2017-18, which may have something to do with the Bruins allowing the fewest high-danger chances in the NHL, per Natural Stat Trick.

Debates will rage for eternity as to whether teams should pay big money for top-notch goalies, but one thing is clear: Good goaltending is a requirement to win the Stanley Cup. Rask has been excellent in his postseason career, posting a .928 save percentage and giving the B’s quality starts in 62.3 percent of his starts.

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Bruce Cassidy expected some rust in Adam McQuaid’s game.

After all, the burly defenseman had not played in three months, the result of a broken right fibula from blocking a shot against the Vancouver Canucks on Oct. 16.

But after a solid all-around performance in his return during Boston’s 4-1 win over the Montreal Canadiens on Wednesday night, there was little indication that the veteran blue liner had missed the last 36 games.

“Very solid, thought he handled the puck very well, especially at the offensive blue line,” Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy said Thursday morning at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn. “I thought that’s where the rust would be, to be honest, not having pressure around him. But handled it very well. Penalty kill is one of his fortes -obviously delivered there, solid defensively. Very pleased with his game.”

With Kevan Miller still sidelined with an illness, McQuaid will be back in the lineup tonight against the New York Islanders. The 31-year-old played 15 minutes, 12 seconds versus the Habs and logged a team-high four shots on goal and two hits, while playing alongside Matt Grzelcyk on Boston’s third pairing.

“Not too bad. I wasn’t sure what to expect, just went with the first shift and then the second and just went down from there,” said McQuaid. “I wanted to try to keep things really simple. Grizz made life pretty easy to play with – he played really well. All the guys did, so it was nice to be back, be a part of the win. I’m happy to be back.”

During the defenseman’s absence, Cassidy spoke on numerous occasions about how valuable McQuaid is on the kill and he showed why against Montreal. McQuaid logged 1:34 on the kill, all of which came during the Canadiens’ unsuccessful 5-on-3 bid midway through the second period.

“I was a little tired,” McQuaid said with a laugh. “I tried my best not to overstay or overextend my shifts, I didn’t have much choice in that case. I felt that one a little bit…I think guys thrive off of wanting to kill that and be in those situations. Even though I was a little winded at the end of it, it was a good feeling for sure.”

McQuaid’s strong work in the D-zone also led to the deciding goal. After rubbing out Jacob de la Rose along the left wall, the puck squirted to Jake DeBrusk, leading to a rush up ice that resulted in Ryan Spooner’s backhanded tally that gave the Bruins a 2-1 lead.

“It goes without saying that I was looking forward to getting back out there,” said McQuaid. “A few nerves [before the game], just settled into the game…it felt good just to be a part of the win.

“As fun as it has been to watch the guys win and when you’re actually on the ice and on the bench and a part of the battle it’s that much more gratifying.”

Captain Iron Man

Like McQuaid, Bruins captain Zdeno Chara did yeoman’s work on the penalty kill against the Canadiens. Chara logged 2:25 of shorthanded ice time on Wednesday, including a consecutive stretch of 4:18 before and through Charlie McAvoy’s holding penalty. It is just the type of situation that the 40-year-old thrives on.

“It’s something that we feel that the guys that are on the ice, that’s our job to prevent them from getting a goal,” said Chara. “For the most part, I thought we did a really good job of keeping them on the outside…at that point in the game it was a turning point, they could easily get two goals and that would be a different story.

“That’s my job and that’s our job to make sure we do our best to prevent that…I was tired but nothing that didn’t happen before…it takes some energy out of you, but at the same time, that’s my job and I train to do that.

“Those are the times and moments where I absolutely love to be on the ice. Whatever the team needs, I’m willing to give.”

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If the Bruins want inspiration for a potential Stanley Cup run, they need look no further than the Nashville Predators last season.

Look, it’s not a perfect comparison. The Predators had a better blue line. They have a better coach. But both teams are regular-season possession monsters. Both teams are powered by a dominant top line that can flat-out take over games — Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak have combined for seven goals at 5-on-5 and having given up one. Which is pretty good.

Both teams have a supporting cast at forward that’s a combination of veterans and dynamic younger players. For the Bruins, that means guys like center David Krejci playing with guys like Anders Bjork and Jake DeBrusk.

But what the Predators had last season that the Bruins aren’t sure they’ll have: a veteran goalie who finds another level early in the playoffs and wins rounds for his team. Nashville’s Pekka Rinne went from a .918 save percentage and a 2.42 goals-against in the regular season to a .930 and a 1.96 in the postseason. He started the playoffs with back-to-back shutouts. He won seven of first eight postseason starts.

Tuukka Rask has a .913 save percentage and a 2.44 goals-against average this season. His career playoff numbers have been quite good: .928 and a 2.12, respectively. But for the Bruins to make a serious run at the Cup, he needs to dominate the early rounds and give his team some solid defensive footing on which to climb through the conference. Especially when it appears they could open the playoffs against Auston Matthews and the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Emily Kaplan: If the Bruins play like they did in a 7-2 throttling of the Columbus Blue Jackets on Monday, no doubt about it. Pencil these guys into the Eastern Conference finals right now. But that’s just one game of evidence, of course. Let’s look at a larger sample size.

First, the positives: Charlie McAvoy is a revelation. The 19-year-old defenseman is every bit as good as advertised, handling hefty minutes (23-plus a game) against tough assignments, producing offensively (18 points in 31 games) and showing some grit, too. (I’m not just talking about his fight on Monday.) The Bruins also have what could be the league’s best line outside of Vladislav Namestnikov-Nikita Kucherov-Steven Stamkos. Yes, Bergeron, Marchand and Pastrnak — the Bruins’ top three point-scorers — are that dominant.

The problem here is depth. Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy still doesn’t know who to play with David Krejci, and that’s an issue. The young kids (Bjork and DeBrusk) are working through rookie growing pains. And the least-fun topic to bring up in Boston: Rask may have lost a step. Hey, that can all be solved if the veteran goalie only faces 18 shots a night while his team fires off 45 … like it did against Columbus.

I think the most emblematic game for this team was its performance last Saturday against the Rangers. The Bruins fell two goals behind, and then looked damn impressive storming back against a locked-in Henrik Lundqvist to tie and earn a point. Ultimately, a mental lapse — a bad line change that yielded too many men in overtime — did the Bruins in. This is a team that has stumbled early and has enough talent to scare some teams down the stretch, but there are too many holes in the Bruins’ lineup for them to finish off teams come playoff time.

Chris Peters: I don’t think they have enough to make a Cup run, especially with the competition being what it is in the East right now. If the Bruins can get past the Lightning in the Atlantic portion of the playoffs — a huge if — they would still have to overtake any one of the teams from the loaded Metropolitan to reach the Cup Final. As Emily notes, depth is an issue — and it’s unlikely Boston can keep pace with the scoring attacks it would have to go head-to-head with, even if it did just drop seven on the Blue Jackets. The Bruins are looking more and more comfortable as a playoff team, but it’s harder to see them taking that leap to Cup contender.

The 2017-18 season, however, is a key building-block year as the Bruins look to recover from some of the salary-cap issues left by former GM Peter Chiarelli. This season appears to be a significant step forward for a number of reasons. McAvoy looking like the heir apparent to Zdeno Chara as the team’s No. 1 defenseman is a huge development, but the Bruins are going to need a lot more than one player to fill the roles previously held by veterans. A lot of young players are getting significant reps with the big club. It’s an important development season for those players, as Boston keeps building a secondary core of young players to support the existing veterans — like Chara, Bergeron, Marchand, Krejci and Rask — who have meant so much to the organization.

Pastrnak is still only 21, which makes him the centerpiece of the young core. McAvoy and Brandon Carlo are in there, too. Meanwhile, Danton Heinen has sneaked up to third in points per game among rookies, trailing only Brock Boeser and Mathew Barzal, at 0.78. DeBrusk had the best night of his young career against Columbus and now has 17 points in 27 games. Boston has used 10 players aged 24 or younger this season and has a decently-stocked prospect pipeline, with some more talent to follow.

There may be a little more uncertainty in the coming years as some of the other veterans move on or decline, but the Bruins can start feeling pretty good about their future. To be playing as well as they have been this season is simply an added bonus.

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Jake DeBrusk has never been considered your average goal scorer. His abilities range far beyond what a typical top-six winger usually provides.

Among those attributes is a bit of an ornery side. And for the first time in his young career, the full wrath of that side came out during the second period of the Bruins’ 3-1 victory over the New York Islanders on Saturday night.

After Casey Cizikas delivered a heavy hit on Charlie McAvoy by the Islanders bench in the second period, DeBrusk took exception, stepping in and dropping the gloves for his first career fight. The former first-round pick was issued an instigator penalty and a 10-minute misconduct for his efforts and was forced to watch most of the second period from the Bruins dressing room as he served his 17-minute banishment.

When DeBrusk returned, the more traditional side of his game shone through, too. On his first shift after the penalty, the 21-year-old delivered with a spin-o-rama snipe from the slot for what proved to be the deciding goal.

It was a sequence that could prove to be a defining one for the rookie.

“He comes through there and he sticks up for his teammate, that shows a lot,” said Bruins alternate captain David Backes. “Then to capitalize on a goal after not playing for 17 minutes – I was asking if he jumped on a bike there in the second period or what to keep going, because I know that can be a tough thing to get your feet back under you and get up to speed again.

“He made good of that opportunity and it ends up being the game-winning goal. Two points for us and that’s what we we’re looking for.”

DeBrusk has never been shy to drop the gloves. The 6-foot, 183-pounder fought five times over three seasons in the WHL and twice more with Providence last season. Despite being known more for his offensive prowess, DeBrusk’s rough-and-tumble side is no surprise given the fact that his father, Louie, was once one of the NHL’s premier tough guys – fighting 115 times over his 11-year career.

“It really showed that he’s a great teammate,” said Bruins captain Zdeno Chara. “You don’t have to be a big guy to drop gloves and stand up for your teammate and he did. Good for him, he showed a lot of character in that act. He did pretty well. Obviously the toughness is something he has in his family. It’s a great sign of being part of a good team.”

DeBrusk, who had zero career penalty minutes before the fight, said he believed Cizikas’ hit on McAvoy was clean, but felt it was important to stand up for his fellow rookie.

“I think it was a clean hit, it was just a really hard one and I didn’t like it…I verbally asked him if he wanted to go and he said yes and he dropped his gloves, so that’s how it happened,” said DeBrusk. “It was a bit of a different scenario, to say the least. It was something that happened, and I honestly didn’t try to get an instigator or anything like that.”

It was the type of penalty that Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy was happy to live with.

“I think it’s good for his teammates to know that he’s going to get in there, whether people think it’s right or wrong…he’s in there looking after one of his teammates, so guys appreciate that,” said Cassidy. “At that time and juncture in the game, I think everyone’s fine with it and it will help him in the room.”

Nevertheless, DeBrusk wanted to make up for having to spend 17 minutes in the dressing room. With plenty of jump in his step, DeBrusk returned in the third period and took advantage on his first shift.

“I watched the period in here and just felt a little out of sorts and just wanted to get back in action and make the first shift a good one. Was lucky enough to cash in on a goal,” said DeBrusk.

The tally was a shining example of DeBrusk’s scoring touch. The winger picked up a bouncing puck off a pass from Torey Krug and made his way to the slot, where he spun and fired a blistering wrister by Jaroslav Halak with 13:15 remaining to build a 2-0 lead.

“I just wanted to get the puck on net. I was kind of trying to honestly generate maybe a rebound,” said DeBrusk. “It was kind of a weird play…I didn’t really know where the net was. I kind of had an idea, but I just turned and just shot as hard as I could and it went in.

“It was nice to see that and obviously missing a whole period and then coming back, it was huge.”

It was a look into what could be a very bright future. And a sequence that his teammates certainly won’t forget.

“I thought it was great to see him stepping up for Chuckie there and then getting that goal,” said Patrice Bergeron. “He was in the penalty box for a while and sometimes your legs can get stiff and cold, and he didn’t miss a beat. Then he was ready for when he got a tap on the back, and came back on the ice.

“It was a huge goal for us. We needed that. So kudos to him for stepping up and making those two big plays.”

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The Bruins knew they had their work cut out for them on Saturday night. Boston was getting its first look at rookie sniper Matthew Barzal, who has joined an already potent New York Islanders lineup that includes John Tavares, Anders Lee, and Josh Bailey to form one of the NHL’s best offensive attacks.

A strong defensive effort was needed from top to bottom. And that’s exactly what the Bruins put forth.

Led by a 30-save performance by Tuukka Rask and some stifling play from the back end, the B’s charged to a 3-1 victory over the Isles at TD Garden for their eighth win in 10 games.

“We talked about the one thing that we had to really take care of was our D-zone tonight and we definitely did that,” said Patrice Bergeron. “Especially against an offensive team like the Islanders with so many gifted players, you can’t give them space and room, especially in the slot. I thought we kept them on the outside for the most part.

“Obviously they’re going to get some chances, they’re good players, but I thought it was a really good effort.”

Contributing to the stingy performance was Boston’s penalty kill. The unit had a perfect night in shutting down all four of New York’s power plays, which included two five-minute majors in the third period – one on Brad Marchand for interference and one on David Backes for head butting. On both majors, the Bruins drew penalties which helped limit the time they spent shorthanded.

“Those majors ended up being kind of three-minte power plays for them and then we draw a penalty. We cut it in half twice,” said Zdeno Chara. “That’s something that shows guys are working hard even away from the puck. Even when we are shorthanded we are capable of being dangerous and that’s what happened, we drew some penalties.”

Boston has now allowed one goal or fewer in three of its last four games and is playing its best all-around hockey of the season in front of Rask, who has won four straight starts. Including his relief performance in Nashville, the B’s ace netminder has allowed just five goals over his last five games for a 1.10 goals against average and .955 save percentage.

“Making those saves you can see he’s clear. He’s ready for anything, for every shot, and he looks confident,” said Bergeron. “Tonight he was great.”

After a tough month of November, during which he ceded the net to Anton Khudobin for a four-game stretch, Rask has found his stride and appears relaxed and composed between the pipes. Rask credited the play in front of him for his recent success.

“I’ve had good rhythm to my game,” said Rask. “Guys are doing a good job eliminating the second chances and obviously if you don’t get rebounds all the time it helps too, but we’re skating back so hard that we are kind of forcing them to take shots in bad spots and when they don’t have all the time in the world to pick the corners up, it’s kind of easier for me too.

“I think that’s played a huge part of that, coming back to our own zone and shutting them down in the slot area and also blocking a ton of shots. We’re not shying away from that, so I think all of those things together have made it.”

Much of the strong play in front of Rask came from the pairing of Torey Krug and Brandon Carlo. With Boston’s No. 1 duo of Chara and Charlie McAvoy assigned to track the Islanders top line, the responsibility of defending Barzal, Andrew Ladd, and Jordan Eberle fell to Krug and Carlo. The tandem had a terrific night as they kept the Islanders second-line trio off the board.

“That kid’s a heck of a player,” Krug, who had two assists, said of Barzal. “Seems like the puck follows him around. A couple bigger bodies that play with him and get to the net. It was a fun matchup for Brandon and myself. We both skate well and tried to shut them down with good gaps. When he’s coming at you with all that speed it’s tough, but I thought we did a good job overall.”

Barzal did manage a point – with Chara and McAvoy on the ice as the penalty to Backes expired – when he picked up an assist on Lee’s goal that cut the Bruins lead to 2-1 with just 3:08 remaining. It was all the Islanders could muster.

“We did a good job – obviously they’re a good team with some firepower and some really skilled guys, so we did a good job of defending from the inside out and Tuukks played a heck of a game,” said Krug. “He got a chance to see a lot of pucks and played it with a lot of confidence and our penalty killers were great.”