Boston Bruins defenseman Charlie McAvoy has made a case study of game management.
McAvoy is the Bruins’ leader in ice time, logging 23:13 minutes per game. In addition to his regular shifts with captain Zdeno Chara against the opponents’ top lines, McAvoy participates on the second power play with Matt Grzelcyk, the penalty kill and 4-on-4 situations.
“I think about it (ice time) and I’ve been watching and trying to be a student of the game since high school, even before that,” said McAvoy.
McAvoy can expect to match or exceed his average when the Bruins take on the revitalized Vancouver Canucks on Tuesday night at the TD Garden. The Bruins (31-10-12) lead the Atlantic Division while the Canucks (30-18-5) are in first place in the Pacific Division.
“I started to realize that the guys that play a lot of minutes, whether it’s (Vancouver’s Brandon) Sutter or (the Kings’ Drew) Doughty or guys like that, they just manage the game so well.”
McAvoy’s version of game management balances the need to be proactive without overextending himself through the course of a shift, a period, a game or a season.
McAvoy is developing his own game management style, but he continues to learn from NHL players who have mastered the process over many seasons.
“Whether it’s decision making or even load management,” said McAvoy. “They are not always up every rush and it seems that they know how to manage their load and their fatigue and just staying fresh and managing the game and really just dictating it. That is something I try and do but I still have so much to learn and to improve on. But if I can do that, if I can be crisp with my breakouts and break up plays and when I’m out there, be a calming presence for our team.
“Playing it and managing it is something I take pride in and I’m very excited with the roles that allow me to play those minutes.”
McAvoy also serves as the Bruins’ second defenseman in 3-on-3 overtime situations behind Torey Krug. The Bruins have been dreadful in overtime and shootouts and lead the league with 12 overtime points, two ahead of Ottawa.
“We have Torey out there and Charlie,” said Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy. “You know Charlie hasn’t scored much but he’s actually had his chances on overtime ice and I think we have mobile guys back there.”
McAvoy believes the Bruins can reverse that trend in the remaining 29 games of the regular season.
McAvoy enjoys playing on the open ice sheet, participating on two-on-one breaks while maintaining his defensive duties for goalies Tuukka Rask and Jaroslav Halak.
“Three on three is a blast and it’s obviously an opportunity and I get really excited to go out there,” said McAvoy. “You get to play with skill and there is a lot of open ice and obviously defending.
“It’s one on one all over the ice and you have to take a lot of pride in that. You have to keep yourself between that guy and the net but then your skill gets to come out when you get the opportunity to change lanes or try something.”