CHICAGO - "I guess we're staying in Chicago tonight."
The thought crossed Charlie McAvoy's mind after the mob of excited teammates would not relent in their celebration. The joyous pileup was a result of the young blueliner's first goal of the season - coming in overtime to stretch the Bruins win streak to five games.
"That was awesome," said McAvoy. "We're such a close group and I could feel everyone's genuine happiness for me and we all share that with each other whenever anybody does good things. That was special. Gave a lot of guys hugs after the game."
There is a lot to be genuinely happy about for this Bruins squad, who went to sleep on Wednesday night leading the National Hockey League with 78 points.
"We're playing really well and we're sticking together," said McAvoy. "We're getting efforts from our goalies every single night, they're playing awesome. They've been our best players since the break. Our special teams have been good whether it's been PP or PK. Some nights it's been both to win us games. Just sticking together."
While the goal marked the 22-year-old's first of the season, his play has been impressive of late, including a pair of assists in the win over Vancouver.
"I think he's just playing lots of minutes, playing to his strengths," said head coach Bruce Cassidy. "Getting up the ice when he can. I liked his first assist [Tuesday against Vancouver] with the shot because it was quick, it's on the net with traffic. He had a couple chances [Wednesday night] to shoot and he looked back door. At the end of the day he's a good player for us - matchup every night. The offense will come and maybe [the past two games] is a start of that a little bit more."
While his teammates know a long goal drought can weigh a player down, they still relied on McAvoy to be a valuable contributor.
"I know just from talking with him he was getting a little anxious about it," said defenseman Torey Krug. "That's natural and to be expected, but he hasn't let it affect what he does for us the rest of the way as far as being a great defenseman for this team and shutting down other teams' top lines and moving the puck and doing everything else well."
When asked about his emotions after finally finding the back of the net, McAvoy had only one word to describe them.
"Relief," said McAvoy. "It was a heck of a play by JD [Jake DeBrusk] and just really simple for me, I was just trying to go to the back post and what a pass. He put it right on my stick, the rest is history."
Now that the he has finally broken through, McAvoy is looking forward to playing with more confidence.
"It weighs, as much as you don't want to say it," said McAvoy. "You think about it and your confidence. You want to - you feel like you can contribute a set amount and sometimes when it's not there it takes a bit of a hit. What I said to these guys, thanks for keeping my confidence high. They all do and everybody is saying it's coming, it's coming.
"Their response there was pretty neat and they're all kind of just busting my chops. Hopefully from there, a little bit more confidence and start to maybe see more things go in for me. As a team that was a big win for us, big, big job on the penalty kill there to start overtime and I'm just really happy in the group effort."
The win marks the Bruins fifth in a row, including all four contests since returning from the bye week. While some teams experience rust as they return from the long break, the Bruins have responded with their most consistent play of the season.
"It's getting there," said Krug. "I think we're starting to gear up for what is to come after the regular season. You're starting to see that with our team defense. We're not stupid, there are a lot of games left still to be played and it's going to be tough to keep this up but we're going to try and continue that. We're not giving up much from the slot, we're keeping everything to the outside and that's playoff defense and hopefully get rewarded for it on the other end."
The Bruins have outscored the opposition 14-4 since coming back from the bye week.
"I'd say the last six, seven games, we've been the better team most nights," said Cassidy. "Our analytics back that up. I think the eye test backs that up. The score backs it up…Right now I'd say it's some of the best hockey we've played in terms of the full 60 minutes, in terms of checking and defending."
After a long playoff run last season, the chance to rest was a welcome one for the Bruins.
"The break was very helpful physically for a little bit of rest and recovery for the body," said McAvoy. "Coming back, I do feel re-energized and I feel good. I feel like I can move around and skate more and more with a little more energy. It really goes a long way, I'm sure everybody would echo that. When you get that break, you get the chance to re-energize."
Wednesday night's overtime goal from the re-energized McAvoy provided the exclamation mark for the B's recent impressive play. After the celebration on the ice wrapped up, the Bruins ultimately elected not to stay in Chicago and instead head home to Boston. Regardless of what city the Black and Gold have played in recently, the result has been the same - two points for a team that quite simply enjoys its time together.
"Our group is very special and we're already very close. Some of these games, when you have those emotional [games] - the game against Winnipeg and a night like [Wednesday night], where stuff is back and forth, you start to come even closer together and you share in those moments. Things feel good right now, so we just have to keep it going."