Bruins

Bruins sign Anders Bjork to three-year, entry-level deal

Bruins sign Anders Bjork to three-year, entry-level deal

The Bruins didn’t seem overly concerned about Notre Dame prospect Anders Bjork eschewing them for a chance to be an NHL free agent, a la Jimmy Vesey, and now we know why. The college hockey standout and Bruins draft pick signed a three-year, entry-level contract with Boston on Tuesday and is expected to be a strong candidate to crack the NHL roster as a top-six left wing candidate with David Krejci.

Bjork, who had finished his junior season at Notre Dame as a Hobey Baker candidate, told the Bruins he was going to make a decision on next season following his stint for Team USA at the World Championships and did just that a few weeks after the international tournament ended with the Americans out of medal consideration. Bjork went scoreless in five games for Team USA, but was one of the top priorities for the Black and Gold this summer after showing at the NCAA level that he could be a speedy, impact offensive player.

“Our hopes are that he sees where we’re at as a team and some of the young players we’re putting in our lineup,” said Bruins President Cam Neely, a couple of weeks ago at the end-of-season press conference. “We hope that he understands that he’s a player that we think very highly of that can step in and contribute [in the NHL].”

Bjork wrapped up his junior year for the Fighting Irish with 21 goals and 52 points in 39 games and set single-season career highs in goals, assists, points and games played after a solid sophomore year where he was a point-per-game player. 

Bjork was also the star of last summer’s Bruins development camp along with Charlie McAvoy and showed the kind of speed and finishing ability that Boston is desperately looking for on their wings.  With that in mind, it doesn’t take much of a leap to think that Bjork will be given every shot to make it work with Krejci on one of Boston’s top lines. He could form a dynamic trio with Krejci and David Pastrnak after the 21-year-old exploded for 34 goals last season in his third NHL season.

Notre Dame head coach Jeff Jackson congratulated Bork in a tweet shortly after the signing was announced. 

Bjork was initially selected by the Bruins in the fifth round (146th overall) in 2014, but he’s obviously developed quite a bit and raised his profile significantly at Notre Dame. Bjork’s improvement made it a very real danger that he could have completed his senior season while legitimately competing for an NCAA title, perhaps participated in the Olympics for Team USA next winter and then waited things out for NHL free agency next summer just as fellow college hockey players Vesey and Kevin Hayes have done over the past few years.

Credit Don Sweeney and the Bruins, however, for closing the deal with Bjork and avoiding that kind of situation while potentially addressing a big-time NHL need after the B’s went through Ryan Spooner, Peter Cehlarik, Drew Stafford, Matt Beleskey and others while trying to find the proper left wing for the playmaking Krejci last season. 

David Krejci Line looks to shoulder their share of Bruins offensive burden

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USA TODAY Sports Photo

David Krejci Line looks to shoulder their share of Bruins offensive burden

TORONTO – The Bruins top line totaled up 20 points in the first two games, and the B’s took both of those against the Maple Leafs. Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak had zero points in Game 3 on Monday night at the Air Canada Centre, and the Bruins ended up dropping that game to the Leafs. 

So clearly the Bruins’ playoff fate could be strongly tied to the ebbs and flow of their top forward trio, but the hope with the B’s is that the formula won’t be that simple throughout the postseason. A big part of the reason the Bruins gave up a boatload to the New York Rangers in exchange for Rick Nash was to acquire another forward capable of shouldering a scoring load, and turn Boston’s second line into a much more dangerous group. 

All three members of the B’s second line, David Krejci, Rick Nash and Jake DeBrusk, all have goals during the best-of-seven series, but they also came up empty in Game 3 with Krejci and DeBrusk only managing two shots on net between them. They know that they’re capable of more given the offensive talent on the ice, and given that so much defensive attention is being paid to neutralizing Bergeron, Marchand and Pastrnak rather than them. 

“We had lots of good looks. I missed a couple. We had lots of good looks that just didn’t go in,” said Krejci. “So we need to work extra harder [in Game 4] to bury those chances and have them end up in the back of the net. We need to stick to the game plan and respect the game plan.”

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Nash had five shots on net and some pretty good chances, but the best scoring chance was a DeBrusk dangle and pass to Krejci wide open at the net. It looked like the puck hit a rut on the ice and Krejci was never able to settle it down for a shot despite the nice-looking pass, so that line is left biding their team for another chance to carry the offense. 

“I think that’s the main reason why we’re the second line. We all have attributes that can help this team. It hasn’t really come to the table yet, but I still thought that we generated chances [in Game 3], and I think our whole team did. It just wasn’t bouncing our way,” said DeBrusk. “It’s frustrating, but at the same time you take the positives from it. It’s not going to be easy. It’s going to get harder from here on in. Hopefully our top line does their thing, but if not then we’ll be ready to hopefully help out in that category.”

The Bruins top line is ready, willing and able to shoulder the lion’s share of the scoring burden for the Black and Gold, and most nights they’re going to be able to live up to that kind of responsibility. But if the Bruins want to beat the good defensive teams and become a much more difficult team to play against in the postseason, they’re going to need to start getting production from a second line that should be built to play the power, puck possession game in the postseason.

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Patrice Bergeron named Selke Trophy finalist for seventh straight season

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Patrice Bergeron named Selke Trophy finalist for seventh straight season

TORONTO – At some point, they’re going to have to start thinking about re-naming the award after Patrice Bergeron himself.

The Bruins center was named a finalist for the Selke Trophy on Wednesday night for the seventh consecutive season, and is going for his NHL-record fifth trophy for being the best defensive forward in the NHL. Bergeron was named a finalist along with Philadelphia Flyers center Sean Couturier and Los Angeles Kings center Anze Kopitar. Bergeron finished his 12th NHL season with 30 goals and 33 assists for 63 points with 26 penalty minutes and a plus-21 rating in 64 games.

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He ranked fifth in the league in faceoff win percentage (57.3, min. 1,000 face-offs), 12th in face-offs won (784), third in even strength faceoff win percentage (58.0, min. 500 face-offs won) and first in shorthanded faceoff win percentage (58.3, min. 50 face-offs won). The 32-year-old forward also ranked second overall in the team puck possession metric SAT (shot attempts differential), with a 57.56%, which should make the fancy stat nerds very happy.

Some might argue there other more worthy candidates given that Bergeron missed 18 games due to injury this season, but he was also the center of a line that didn’t give up an even strength goal until January while putting up his customarily excellent stats. That being said, a guy like Aleksander Barkov also deserved plenty of consideration outside the top-3 finalists that all come in with equally strong chances of taking home the award.

Bergeron has won the Selke in 2012, 2014, 2015 and 2017. If he wins the year's Selke Trophy, he will break the record held by four-time winner and Montreal Canadiens Hall of Famer Bob Gainey. The Selke Award is given annually to the forward who best excels in the defensive aspects of the game. The winner is selected in a poll of the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association at the end of the regular season, and will be announced at the NHL Awards in Las Vegas on June 20.

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