Bruins

Haggerty: Bjork looking like he's ready for his NHL shot

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Haggerty: Bjork looking like he's ready for his NHL shot

BOSTON – At this point in training camp with just a couple of preseason games to go, Monday night’s performance might have represented the exclamation point on Anders Bjork’s impressive drive to win an NHL roster spot. The 21-year-old Bjork has scored other goals during this preseason, but Monday night’s tally in Boston’s 4-2 win over the Chicago Blackhawks was his first while skating with prospective linemates Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand.

“I think we had more ice time together, which helped us get more comfortable and helped me kind of learn their chemistry a bit more,” said Bjork, who finished with 21 goals and 52 points in 29 games for Notre Dame last season. “Obviously, they have a ton of chemistry and they’re very easy to play with, of course, but you know, it’s nice to get more shifts with them and kind of pick up on their patterns and stuff like that.”

In fact, it’s become easy to see Bjork now winning the right wing spot with No. 37 and No. 63 after watching them work together in perfect concert for Boston’s third goal of the night.

Already up by a 2-0 score, Marchand turned over a puck in the Chicago defensive zone while on the forecheck hunt, and managed to work it over to Bergeron for a quick, backhanded saucer pass to the slot area. The alert Bjork stepped up into the high slot and one-timed the puck past Corey Crawford to give the Bruins a three-goal lead on Monday night, and allow all involved a sigh of heavy relief that Boston has found at least one rookie ready to hold down top-6 NHL job.

“He’s got that speed and the smarts to get open and then find the openings in the quiet ice. It was a great play by him just to get open, and for me to see him. He made it really easy,” said Patrice Bergeron. “He skates well, he made some great plays, we just need to keep talking and finding each other more and more on the ice.”

Given the overall scope of Bjork’s performance in camp, his steady presence on a line with Bergeron and Marchand during the preseason and his speedy skill set, the rookie is stating a strong case that he’s ready for NHL prime time. It would be a major training camp shocker to this humble hockey writer if Bjork is anywhere other than in the Bruins lineup when they drop the puck against the Nashville Predators on Oct. 5.  

“Yes, it does [look like Bjork is NHL ready]. The competition will stiffen for him and we’ll keep evaluating that. Still, he’s got skill, speed, and courage. He gets to the dirty areas. He’s hard to play against [and gives] second effort on pucks,” said Bruce Cassidy. “It’s not one-and-done with him. And for a young kid, that’s special, to be able to hang in and there and battle for those turnovers. That’s usually the part of the game they have to continue to grind on them.

“But he’s got a lot of that. Maybe that’s Bergy and March’s influence, I’d like to think they have some of that, because that’s their game. Marchy never quits. Bergy never quits. They’re going to be a hard line to play against if they are that dogged on the puck every shift.”

There are still two preseason games remaining before the real thing, so it makes little sense for the Bruins to pronounce Bjork ready for NHL duty until the time comes. Bjork’s combination of blazing skating speed, decision-making and confident swagger on the ice have pushed him to the top of Boston’s prospect list when it comes to being closest to play in the NHL. All were on display in his 12:48 of ice time with a goal and a plus-1 rating to go along with two shots on net, a hit and a takeaway while playing the fast, aggressive hockey that Boston prefers these days.

Bjork could have even had a second goal after he intercepted an Erik Gustafsson outlet pass, but missed the net high with a shot in close while going for his second goal of the game. All in all, it was another hurdle cleared by a talented Notre Dame standout that certainly feels like he’s destined to make the opening day roster, and equally ordained to start in a top-6 right wing role with arguably the best duo in the entire NHL.

It will be interesting to see just how good Bjork can be on a daily basis at the NHL level, and if he can get into becoming the 20 goals/50 points range player that should be in his future.  

Now it’s up simply up to Bjork to finish up strong in the preseason when he’s paired with Bergeron and Marchand, and continue on the straight-ahead path toward cracking the Bruins roster for years to come. It would appear he’s poised to “pop” in training camp just as Brandon Carlo did a year ago, and stand as one of those talented youngsters ready to help bridge the gap between talented rookies and established core veterans.

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Talking Points: Bruins empty the tank but can't break through against Caps

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Talking Points: Bruins empty the tank but can't break through against Caps

GOLD STAR: Alex Chiasson really didn’t get going until about midway through the game, but he made a huge impact once he began making plays in the third period. It's worth mentioning he is a former Boston University Terrier so he made himself comfortable in TD Garden. He gave the Capitals a two-goal cushion in the third period when he followed his own shot and outmuscled Brandon Carlo for a bid right in front of the Bruins net. Then four minutes later, Chiasson blocked a Torey Krug shot on the penalty kill and raced down to finish off a breakaway for the game-winning goal. The former Terrier finished with two goals, a plus-2 rating, three shots on net, five takeaways and a couple of blocked shots in just 12:46 of ice time. Just add Chiasson to the long list of skilled big bodies for the Caps that have done damage to the B’s over the years.

 

BLACK EYE: Anders Bjork is going through a very quiet patch offensively since coming back from injury, and was benched for stretches of the game while totaling a team-low 6:47 of ice time for the Bruins. Bjork finished with a minus-1 rating and zero shots on net, and now has one point and just two shots on goal in six games since coming back from a concussion. It will be interesting to see what the Bruins do with Bjork, who may be a prime candidate to watch a game up in the press box with Ryan Spooner pushing to get back into the B’s lineup. Either way it looks like Bjork is going through one of those rookie valleys right now. Perhaps he simply needs more time to recover from his concussion.

 

TURNING POINT: The turning point came in the third period when the Capitals scored three goals on six shots and pulled away from the Bruins. The Black and Gold had been closely trailing the Caps until that point in the game. Washington was outshot 37-21 by Boston, but they proved to have more quality chances, scoring five goals despite a lower quantity of shots. The Bruins are now 1-9-1 when trailing after two periods, and can’t pull the same kind of comeback magic against a stronger team like the Capitals. It’s too bad because the Bruins had their chances in the game, but just couldn't get over the hump. 

 

HONORABLE MENTION: Patrice Bergeron was the best Bruins player, burying a couple of goals, finishing with nine shot attempts, a few hits, a blocked shot and 15-of-20 face-off wins. Patrice got both of his goals on the power play, but he also finished with a minus-2 rating. If Bergeron is a minus player, it doesn't bode well for this team. But he also deserves some credit for emptying the tank on a night when the Bruins got back in from Detroit at 3 a.m. and play one of the best teams in the conference on a back-to-back.

 

BY THE NUMBERS: 11 – the consecutive number of losses for the Bruins against the Washington Capitals in a woeful stretch of hockey that dates back to March of 2014.


QUOTE TO NOTE: "We shot a lot of pucks and it just didn't go our way. When the black cat cross your road, it's just a black cat crossing the road." –Anton Khudobin on the loss to the Capitals, where I think he’s referring to the B’s hitting three posts.  

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Caps have the Bruins number, win 11th straight against Boston

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Caps have the Bruins number, win 11th straight against Boston

BOSTON – The Bruins didn’t play badly against the Washington Capitals on Thursday night, but they certainly didn’t play well enough to beat the bully on their block.

The B's dropped a 5-3 decision to the Capitals for their 11th straight defeat, and haven’t won a game against Washington since March of 2014.

Washington scored first and never trailed in the game after a first period goal by Jakub Vrana. The Caps forward rushed in from the neutral zone and caught the Bruins out of sorts defensively. Vrana walked right around Matt Grzelcyk, and then beat Anton Khudobin with a slick move to capture the lead.

The Bruins tied it up on a power play strike from Patrice Bergeron in the second period, but then lost ground during a Washington powerplay. Nicklas Backstrom redirected a Evgeny Kuznetsov pass from the point to re-take the lead for the Capitals, and then they continued to build on that advantage in the third period.

Alex Chiasson followed his own shot beating Brandon Carlo in a physical battle in front of the net, and pushed the rebound past Khudobin for the insurance marker. Chiasson then doubled his pleasure and doubled his fun by scoring a second goal when he blocked a Torey Krug shot on the penalty kill. He skated home free down the ice and buried a breakaway bid. The B’s closed it back to two goals in the final minutes of the third when David Krejci redirected a Charlie McAvoy attempt from the point.

Alex Ovechkin cleared the puck on the next shift, banking it off the boards. Krejci looked like he was trying to sell an icing but the puck unexpectedly banked directly into the net. It looked like it was the final strike of the game, but Bergeron would add another seconds later. It was too late though, and Washington captured their 11th straight victory against the Bruins by a score of 5-3.

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