2021 NHL Playoffs: Superstar Charlie McAvoy is Bruins' most important player

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Superstar Charlie McAvoy is Bruins' most important player in playoffs originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston

BOSTON -- Many of the best teams in Bruins history have been built around an elite, Hall of Fame defenseman. You know the names -- Bobby Orr, Ray Bourque, Zdeno Chara, etc.

While he still has a long way to go to put together a résumé as impressive as those players, there's no question that Charlie McAvoy has all the talent needed to be a franchise cornerstone of a championship-winning Bruins team.

McAvoy was arguably the Bruins' MVP during the regular season, and he's played at a superstar level through four games of their first-round Stanley Cup Playoff series against the Washington Capitals.

The 23-year-old defenseman was a major reason why Boston earned a 4-1 victory in Friday night's Game 4 at TD Garden to take a commanding 3-1 series lead.

Game 4 observations: Elite special teams powering Bruins

McAvoy played 26:18 of ice time, including a remarkable 8:49 of penalty killing to help the B's slow down one of the league's premier power-play units. He also tallied three assists, giving him a team-leading five points in the series.

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Furthermore, the Bruins had a 18-8 edge in shot attempts, a 12-3 lead in shots on net, a 10-3 advantage in scoring chances and a 5-0 margin in high-danger chances during the 10:58 of 5-on-5 ice time McAvoy played in Game 4.

In other words: Complete domination.

"(He's) unbelievable. I can't say enough good things about him," Bruins defenseman Matt Grzelcyk said of McAvoy. "I got to play with him in college, and you could see from an early age he was a special player. He's only gotten better and better each year. The biggest thing about him is when the spotlight is on him and the lights get brighter, Chucky shows up to play and elevates his game.

"Being his partner, I want to make sure I'm supporting him -- putting pucks in good spots for him to get going the other way in transition, and I think we read off of each other really well. It's really fun to play with him. It's fun to watch him grow up right in front of our eyes. He's one of the best defenseman in the league."

McAvoy literally does it all for the Bruins.

Log 25-plus minutes and defend against the opponents' top forwards at a high level? Check. Excel on both special teams units? Check. Bring a physical element to the ice? Check. A high hockey IQ and top-tier skating ability? Yes and yes.

Several of the numbers for the McAvoy-Grzelcyk pairing against the Capitals have been absurdly good. The ice has been tilted so far in Boston's favor during 5-on-5 action.

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It's impossible to understate the importance of having someone on the blue line with an all-around skill set of McAvoy's caliber come playoff time.

Most teams that win the Stanley Cup have an elite No. 1 defenseman capable of dominating in all three zones and in all types of roles/situations. Recent examples include Chara, Duncan Keith, Drew Doughty, Alex Pietrangelo and Victor Hedman.

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McAvoy is quickly becoming one of those players. You could make a very strong case that he is already one of the league's top five defenseman and deserves to be a finalist for the Norris Trophy. If he's not part of that group this season, he will be soon.

McAvoy is the player the Bruins can least afford to lose to injury during the playoffs. No one else on the blue line brings the type of skill set and overall impact that he does. 

If the Bruins are going to make another deep postseason run and potentially return to the Stanley Cup Final, they will need McAvoy to continue performing at this rate. Based on the steps McAvoy has taken in elevating his game to an elite level in 2021, plus his performance so far in this Round 1 series, he's more than capable of passing that test.