Cassidy: Exhibition game vs. Canadiens, Julien 'not much of a storyline'


Cassidy: Exhibition game vs. Canadiens, Julien 'not much of a storyline'

BRIGHTON, Mass – While it’s expected that the regular season meetings between the Bruins and Canadiens are going to be emotionally charged with Claude Julien behind the Montreal bench - and that goes doubly for the first time the two rivals square off - don’t expect that to be the case for Monday night’s preseason opener vs. the Canadiens in Quebec City.

Bruce Cassidy will be on the Boston bench with a lineup he said will “definitely be on the youthful side”, and it’s expected that Julien will be behind the Habs bench for the first time against the hockey club where he coached the previous ten seasons. That makes it notable despite it being an exhibition season matchup, but Cassidy didn’t think any hard feelings would creep into a game where players are just trying to get their bearings after months away from the ice.

“I’ll go over and say hello and we’ll have a chat about training camp…just like we did at the draft. I don’t think this game is much of a storyline as much as it’s a first game for both teams that are probably evaluating their talent,” said Cassidy, who replaced Julien as the B’s bench boss last season after an early February coaching change. “Obviously the regular season is different where you’ve got your full lineups, and it’s Bruins/Canadiens. It’s the rivalry.

“This one I’ll be spending a lot more time worrying about our guys, and not so much worried about lineup matchups or any of that stuff going on. Hopefully the result goes our way, but we’re looking more at how we’re playing as a team. Are we playing with energy and pace? How are the individuals we’re evaluating [looking]…are they able to do what they’re asked to do? At the end of the day, that’s the biggest thing that we’re looking for [in the exhibition opener.”

The Bruins and Canadiens never faced each other once Cassidy had replaced Julien, and then Julien, the winningest coach in B’s history, was subsequently hired by Montreal and signed to a five-year contract. So the new Bruins head coach said that he’s very much looking forward to meaningful games vs. the Habs even if Monday night’s preseason tilt isn’t one that’s going to lastingly count as a chapter in rivalry history.  

“We’ll play sooner or later. Listen its Bruins/Montreal, we’re looking forward to great games,” said Cassidy. “Would we rather have, pick any team we don’t have a rivalry with. . . would we rather play them four times? I’d rather have Montreal personally, so I’m looking forward to those games.”

For the record, Cassidy and the rest of the Bruins will have to wait until the January 13 road tilt at the Bell Centre for Boston’s first regular-season face-to-face meeting with Julien since the coaching change was made last winter.



Struggling Bjork may take a seat vs. Rangers


Struggling Bjork may take a seat vs. Rangers

BRIGHTON, Mass – It’s normally a sequence of peaks and valleys for rookies in their first foray through the NHL and Anders Bjork is definitely in one of those lower points right now. 

Bjork, 21, registered a season-low 6:47 of ice time in the Bruins 5-3 loss to the Washington Capitals on Thursday night at TD Garden and was benched for portions of the second and third period after looking pretty timid throughout the game.


Bjork has just a single point and two shots on net in his past six games since returning from an upper-body injury believed to be a concussion. It's been an extremely quiet period for a player expected to make a top-six forward impact. It’s all trending toward a potential healthy scratch for Bjork on Saturday against the New York Rangers with a healthy Ryan Spooner potentially taking over for him on David Krejci’s left side.

“We’ll make the decision tomorrow, but [a Bjork scratch] is definitely a possibility and something we’ve discussed,” said Bruce Cassidy. “I just find that he’s not as strong on the puck as he was at the start of the year, or as quick to create turnovers. There are parts of his game that are always going to be worked on, like his play away from the puck.

“But the issue right now is being strong on pucks. The goal [Washington] they scored the other night is a good example. We make a play through the middle of the ice tape-to-tape, he’s in the crease and he’s not able to handle a puck. They’re coming back at us while we’re thinking we’re on offense. There were breakdowns after that clearly, but that’s an area [that needs improving]. Just before Charlie [McAvoy’s] penalty, we’re on a draw and [Bjork] gets pushed off a puck that comes back on us and we get beat up ice. Some of it is plays where he needs to be better, and some of it is where he’s at in his career where other guys are just stronger.”

Perhaps some of Bjork’s hesitancy is also an after-effect of getting tattooed in the middle of the ice by Tampa Bay's Matt Martin in a play that knocked him out of the lineup for a few weeks. Coping with the immediacy of those kinds of hits is part of life in pro hockey for a young player. It's a considerable adjustment when going straight from college hockey to the NHL.

Bjork knows that he hasn’t been a high-impact player since returning from injury and hasn’t really utilized his greatest offensive assets, speed and skill.  It may not matter much if Bjork watches Saturday from the ninth floor of the Garden as a healthy scratch, but he has a plan to get his game back on track when he does get his next opportunity for the Black and Gold.

“I think it’s mainly a confidence thing. I have to use [my speed] and it’s on me if I don’t,” said Bjork, who has four goals and 10 points in 22 games this season. “I think I just have to have that confidence every shift, so I can avoid the mistakes. There are bounces good and bad in hockey, but you create your own luck sometimes. You do that by playing the right way, and when things aren’t going your way you need to get back to basics of making things simple. That’s what I need to focus on: Making the simple plays and doing the details right.”

A healthy scratch was exactly the right thing to spark fellow rookie Jake DeBrusk when he was scuffling a bit last month, so perhaps the same plan of attack for Bjork to unlock his game while on a pace for 14 goals and 34 points this season. 


Morning Skate: 100 reasons to love the NHL at 100


Morning Skate: 100 reasons to love the NHL at 100

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading, while "The Last Jedi" is officially open for business.

*In honor of the 100th anniversary of the NHL, here are 100 reasons to love the league, its players and its storied history. I’ll give you one reason: Bobby Freakin’ Orr.

*It looks like Milan Lucic is becoming a good fit on a line with Connor McDavid out in Edmonton, something that I think the Oil envisioned when they originally signed him.

*A nice piece on the lasting friendship between Matt Murray and Marc-Andre Fleury even after they’re no longer goalie tandem partners in Pittsburgh. A couple of Stanley Cups will do that for a goalie duo.

*They say that there’s no dancing in hockey, and there’s this ECHL player that is getting his groove on during pregame warm-ups.

*It sounds like Anthony Duclair is attempting to adapt and evolve his game with the Arizona Coyotes after fighting through the trade rumors.

*For something completely different: Speaking of the release of the new "Star Wars" movie, here is the first reaction from fans.