Bruins

Could a stint with the P-Bruins be the best thing for Bjork?

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Could a stint with the P-Bruins be the best thing for Bjork?

The Bruins aren’t overplaying their hand when it comes to 21-year-old rookie Anders Bjork, but it wouldn’t be very surprising to see at some point soon the former Notre Dame standout get some development time at the AHL level. Bjork was scratched in the blowout win over the Ottawa Senators last weekend, and will once again be up in the press box for Tuesday night’s game against the New York Islanders at the Barclays Center. 

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Instead Ryan Spooner will play the right wing with David Krejci and Jake DeBrusk, and the speedy, creative forward will look to build on a recent hot streak that has him with two goals, seven points and a plus-5 rating in his last seven games. Meanwhile Bjork had just a single goal and three points with just seven shots on net in 12 games during the month of December, and hasn’t been able to consistently turn his own speed, skill game into a major impact for the Black and Gold. 

There have been some glimmers and glimpses of Bjork turning his speed into a factor even in the last few weeks, but it hasn't been consistent enough for a player expected to be a top-6 contributor at the NHL level. 

The Bruins didn’t sound like they were ready to pull the trigger with Bjork at the beginning of this week as they sent fellow rookie Peter Cehlarik down to Providence instead on Monday. But it also sounds like it’s been a topic of discussion between Bruce Cassidy and GM Don Sweeney, and it may happen sooner rather than later on a roster that’s already chock full of young wingers. 

“We’re not saying what we’re doing with [Bjork], but if a young kid is not playing on a consistent basis then ‘yes, absolutely,’ said Bruce Cassidy, when asked if the young player could head to Providence if the B’s forward stays healthy with their current 12 players seemingly gelling together and Frank Vatrano around as the extra. “We look at the growth of our players here. I think it speaks for itself the growth of Danton and Jake down there last year, and I understand that [Jakob] Forsbacka Karlsson and Zach [Senyshyn] are playing well down there right now too. 

“There is not room [on the NHL roster] for everybody, so if that’s what it takes for Anders then we will look at that. We’re going with the same 12 [forwards] against the Islanders, so that’s something we’ll have to have a conversation about: Whether it’s now or down the road, we’ll have to assess what’s best for him and what’s best for our team.” 

Clearly it could, and should, be a positive experience for Bjork as it was for Danton Heinen and Jake DeBrusk last season. Their experiences with big minutes, big roles in all situations and the ups and downs of the AHL season made them better players, and in the case of Heinen especially made a world of difference into getting him ready for another crack at the NHL. 

Perhaps the same kind of development track awaits Bjork with the Bruins this season as things have trailed off for him a bit as the physicality and intensity of the NHL has begun ramping up around the holidays. 

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Rask on Game 5 loss: 'I could've stopped more pucks with my eyes closed.'

Rask on Game 5 loss: 'I could've stopped more pucks with my eyes closed.'

BOSTON -- It may not have been quite as bad as Tuukka Rask made it out to be, but the Bruins goaltender knew he wasn’t good enough in Game 5.

Rask allowed four goals on 13 shots before being yanked in favor of Anton Khudobin as the Bruins fell behind 4-1 in what wound up being a 4-3 loss Saturday night at TD Garden, sending the Stanley Cup playoff series back to Toronto for Game 6 on Monday. He was badly outplayed by Maple Leafs goalie Frederik Andersen, who made 42 strong, clutch saves at the other end of the ice.

The Bruins entered the game with a 3-1 series lead and a chance to close out the Leafs, but the players in front of Rask weren’t much better, getting off to a sluggish start in the first period that ultimately doomed them despite a massive third-period push. Still, it was the goalie who faced the music most directly after the defeat.

For someone who's noticeably sidestepped personal responsibility for goals allowed at times in his career, Rask, the last Bruins player to speak to the media after the game, took it all on his shoulders.

It was pointed self-criticism and a real show of leadership and accountability from Rask, who clearly wasn’t okay with the way he played.

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“I probably could’ve stopped more pucks with my eyes closed," he said. "That’s about it. It’s on me . . . 

“I felt good [going into the game]. Sometimes you track pucks better than other days. Today, as you can probably tell, I wasn’t tracking the puck very well and it happens sometimes."

He didn't get a lot of help; the Bruins allowed a couple of goals in close to the Boston net in a sleepy first period. But it was the second period where things really fell apart .

David Backes scored a power-play goal that cut Toronto’s lead to 2-1 and got the fans back into the game. Then both the Bruins and Rask faltered in the next minute.

A bit of a sloppy line change and some poor coverage on a transition play gave speedy Tyler Bozak a quality chance, and the Toronto forward managed to beat Rask one-on-one. It completely wiped out the momentum Boston had been generating leading up to its first goal, and it sucked the energy right out of the building.

That goal, scored 51 seconds after Backes had put the B's on the board, was on Rask, and it was a big part of what led coach Bruce Cassidy to pull him when he allowed a power-play goal to James van Riemsdyk just 1:19 later.

“I didn’t think [Rask] had it tonight, so we went with Anton," said Cassidy. "And then there’s always [the fact that a goalie change] gets the rest of the team’s attention, as well. So, it’s both [things].

“I don’t want to measure, or quantify what percentage of each, but clearly if I thought he was on then he wouldn’t have got pulled. I guess I’ll put it that way.”

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Rask’s save percentage for the series against the Leafs dropped to a “meh” .904 after the Game 5 debacle, and it was -- unfortunately -- right on the heels of a magnificent 31-save effort in Boston’s big Game 4 road win in Toronto. That was a big performance, in which Rask was justifiably prasied for coming through in a key playoff moment, but just 48 hours later he was fitting himself for goat horns.

That’s the life of a goalie in the playoffs.

“Yeah, that’s the way it is," he said. "You play good, you kind of put it behind you; you play bad, you put it behind you. You just stay even no matter what happens."

He's clearly ready to put Saturday behind him.

"[We’re] moving on to the next one and we’ll finish it out in Toronto,” said Rask.

And as for Saturday?

"That’s hockey. Sometimes you’re awesome, sometimes you’re not.”

In Game 5, Rask was not. Now he and the Bruins will get two more cracks at reversing that in a best-of-seven series where they still have the upper hand, even after Saturday's big miss.

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Bean: Bruins can't do Leafs any more favors

Bean: Bruins can't do Leafs any more favors

Facing elimination, Mike Babcock made some moves in hopes of winning Game 5. Bruce Cassidy made one that helped him out. 

One would be correct in saying the Bruins carried the play for most of their Game 5 loss to the Leafs. With better luck regarding posts and saves Frederik Andersen had no business making, they'd have won. Similarly, the Leafs were the better team in Game 4. But the best team doesn't always win and one wrong move can go a long way. 

After Zdeno Chara held Auston Matthews' line to zero goals through the first four games of the series (Matthews' only goal of the series came against the Torey Krug-Kevan Miller pair in Game 3), Babcock shook up his lines. He took William Nylander away from Matthews and put him on the third line. 

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With Toronto's lineup more spread out, Cassidy opted to ease up on Matthews and play Chara's pair against Nazem Kadri, Andreas Johnsson and Nylander. The results of the decision contributed to a quick hole from which the Bruins would not recover. 

Freed from Chara, Matthews' line scored against a Torey Krug and Kevan Miller pairing minutes into the game. Johnsson scored against Chara and McAvoy shortly thereafter. 

Cassidy put Chara and McAvoy back against Matthews following the feared experiment, but the damage was done. Two fewer goals would have been the difference in a game the Bruins lost by one. 

Then again, there were 49 minutes and 48 seconds left in the game after the Bruins were put in that 0-2 hole. They dominated for most of the remaining minutes, but they also had some big gaffes when they had little margin for error. Tuukka Rask stunk for the most part and gave up a bad goal to Tyler Bozak seconds after the B's had gotten on the board in the second period. 

So there are other areas where the Bruins could use more. That obviously starts with an improved performance in net, but Rask is not a realistic concern. 

Saturday was Rask's first subpar performance of the series. The same cannot be said for David Backes, who has scored two power play goals in front but has been a ghost in 5-on-5 play. His linemate Danton Heinen hasn't been much better, but Heinen is a rookie. Backes is an aging $6 million player. It's fair to assume that he should be of more use to the Bruins now than he will be in the third, fourth and fifth years of his contract. 

It's also fair to assume that Charlie McAvoy's underwhelming play through five games is a sign that he's still finding his way back from the knee injury that kept him out late in the season. He came a hit post away from scoring in the third period, but he has just one point (a secondary assist on a power play goal in Game 1) all series. 

David Krejci sealed Game 4 by creating a rush on which he assisted a Jake DeBrusk goal, but he's been nowhere near the guy who stole the show in postseasons past. Rick Nash could stand to take over a game given the price Don Sweeney rightfully paid for his services. 

So now the series heads to a Game 6, oddly bringing what has at times looked like a one-sided series to the lengthy conclusion we initially expected. If the Bruins don't try outthinking themselves, it will still end the way they envisioned. 

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