BRIGHTON, Mass – It was bound to happen sooner or later given the sandpaper style he plays with as a rookie fourth liner, so on Friday Anton Blidh was getting a bit of a fighting tutorial from Kevan Miller during Bruins practice at Warrior Ice Arena.
The Miller fight doctor routine with Blidh came one day after the young Swede crunched Roman Josi in a first period hit that knocked the Nashville defenseman out of the game, and clearly drew the ire of some of the Predators players. It’s something that will be fact of life for Blidh the longer he sticks in the NHL with the Bruins, and the longer he walks the fine line between annoying opponents and lacking discipline.
“He plays the way he plays,” said Claude Julien. “I think we’ve seen a lot of players around the league play that way. He plays on the edge, and that’s what he does. I’m not going to tell him whether he should fight or not fight. That’s up to him to decide if he wants to defend himself. Right now I see a guy that has created some power play opportunities for us by getting other guys to take penalties on him. You just try and make sure those guys stay within the rules.”
Blidh has been surprisingly effective at drawing penalties from opponents in his 16 games with the Black and Gold this season, and leads all Bruins in penalties drawn per 60 minutes. But even more surprising was that Thursday night’s five minute major was the first penalty he’s incurred since getting called up to the NHL.
Blidh says the tightly wound focus on discipline is something he’s keyed on as it brings value to what he’s doing in his meager 8:55 of ice time per game in a fourth line energy role.
“He’s just trying to help me protect myself. That was just the first lesson, so hopefully [Miller] can show me more,” said Blidh, who said he had barely any fighting experience in the AHL or the Swedish Leagues. “I just try to play hard and finish my checks. I want to play my own game, and I can’t take stupid penalties. I want to play, and I want to put the team in a good position.”
One wouldn’t expect Blidh to all of a sudden start dropping the gloves like a Miller or an Adam McQuaid will with semi-regularity, but it’s clearly a hazard of his agitating job description that an angered opponent might not give him much of a choice about whether or not wants to fight.
So Blidh did a little preparation work with his B’s teammates on Friday knowing his ticket to sticking in the NHL is playing it similarly to the way he did vs. Nashville, totally on the edge and completely unapologetic about it.