Bruins

One new Bruin (Anders Bjork) has connection to old-time B's

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One new Bruin (Anders Bjork) has connection to old-time B's

When Anders Bjork signed with the Bruins last summer, he was headed into a situation without much personal history with the Original Six franchise having grown up in Wisconsin, and played his collegiate hockey at Notre Dame.

He’s making up for lost time now, though, on the ice with three goals and seven points in his first nine games while settling into his right wing spot alongside Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand. The 21-year-old might have had a little bit more history with the Bruins franchise than he let on at first, however, given that Bjork’s dad, Kirt, and former Bruins forward Dave Poulin were teammates at Notre Dame back in the 1980’s.

Bjork and Poulin have remained close over the years, so the younger Bjork was at least able to get a little taste of what it’s like to be in the Black and Gold before he was. . . well. . . in the Black and Gold.

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“He’s reached out a few times through my career in college and even before that to give me advice, or let me know what he was seeing if I was struggling. He’d send me texts of encouragement sometimes, and it was always really cool to get that from a guy like Dave,” said Bjork.
“His advice would always be really helpful. His main thing [about playing for the Bruins] was to just enjoy it, and he told me how great that the people are here.

“He told me not to be shy and to be myself, and that it was all great people and a great organization.”

One thing Poulin didn’t give Bjork was any good “old time hockey” stories about his GM Don Sweeney and club president Cam Neely from their days playing together in Boston.

“Not yet,” said Bjork with a laugh. “Maybe I’ll try to find those out.”

According to Poulin, Bjork has similar high end skating wheels and offensive skills to his old man when he was an All-American at Notre Dame.  It’s the ability to defend and play the 200-foot game that’s made the younger Bjork an NHL prospect, and somebody worthy of installing in the prime right wing spot alongside Bergeron and Marchand even as a fresh-faced rookie.

“I think he’s probably a little more responsible defensively. [Anders] seems to know his goaltender’s name and sees him on a regular basis. Kirt had an incredibly high skill level and was one of the fastest players I ever played with at any level, but it was just a different day and age for the game,” said a laughing Poulin, describing the difference between father and son as players. “[Anders] is responsible defensively, but there’s a side to that where defensively there are a lot of learned things in that league. I learned from players I played with as much as any coach I played for. Early on [in Philly] I had Bobby Clarke and Darryl Sittler as guys I could watch firsthand.

“With Anders getting that opportunity, I may be the biggest Patrice Bergeron fan in hockey. He is one of my favorite players in the league for how he plays the game. He’s got a real cerebral ability that’s off the charts, and his knowledge of the game and the way he competes on a regular basis. If you put a young player in that grouping, sitting beside those guys and the communication level after every shift [is so beneficial]. I don’t think it’s any coincidence that the guy on the left side has learned a lot from the centerman as well. Talk about going to get a Ph.D. or a Master’s Degree in hockey, those are some pretty good mentors.”

The family friendship between the Bjorks and the Poulins has been an enduring one steeped in the worlds of hockey and Notre Dame where things like tradition and loyalty are much more than just words. That’s allowed Poulin to be a good sounding board for the family throughout Anders’ hockey career as it began taking off in the U.S. National Team Development Program, and hit an early high note when he was selected by the Bruins in the fifth round of the 2014 NHL Draft.

“Starting around the Bantam age when he was playing with the Chicago group out of Milwaukee, you could see that he had a chance to be a pretty good player,” said Poulin. “The game change has come at a really nice time for Anders with the emphasis so much on speed and skill, and youth for that matter. So those things have all come together at the same time for him.”

That friendship has also had its share of interesting situations like when Poulin was working the first round of the Bruins/Senators playoff series for TSN. The Bruins were pushing to sign Bjork once his Frozen Four run with the Fighting Irish ended, and Poulin had both his strong ties to the Bjork family as well as tight friendships with former Bruins teammates in Sweeney and Neely.

Poulin largely stayed out of that situation when Bjork took some additional time to mull over his decision to turn pro, but Anders has always appreciated any advice he’s passed along from a 13-year NHL career with the Flyers, Bruins and Capitals, or as a hockey lifer that coached at Notre Dame and served as a hockey ops executive with the Maple Leafs for most of the last 20 years. But he certainly had no problem telling Anders and his family that they would truly enjoy life as a member of the Bruins when he did decide to sign on for the NHL experience.

“I had a really, really good experience in Boston. I was there less than four full years, but those were some really close teams,” said Poulin. “Part of it was because we won a lot. You lose twice [in the conference finals] to Mario Lemieux’s Cup teams [in Pittsburgh], and you’ve got a pretty good group there.”

Now Bjork is hoping this rookie season is the start of his own great book of recollections, relationships and experience with the Black and Gold just like the ones Poulin relayed to him during his own memorable four-season stint in Boston.

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Talking Points: Khudobin's effort helps B's snap losing streak

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Talking Points: Khudobin's effort helps B's snap losing streak

GOLD STAR: Anton Khudobin continues his stretch of picking up points in all of his games for the Bruins as he made 27 no-nonsense saves in a straight-up, blue collar kind of hockey game between the B’s and the Kings. Perhaps even more encouraging the Bruins dominated much of the final 20 minutes while protecting a third period lead, so Khudobin was forced into making just five saves against Los Angeles in something a little less than a frenzied, frenetic between the pipes performance that we’re sometimes used to seeing out of the backup. The big period for the Russian backup was the middle 20 minutes when he was making 17 big saves and eventually improving to 4-0-2 on the season while just simply winning all the time these days.  

 

BLACK EYE: Just one shot on net and three giveaways for Anze Kopitar in 22:08 of ice time for the Kings, who did have an assist on Drew Doughty’s power play goal in the second period during the loss. Kopitar had three giveaways in a bit of a sloppy effort taking care of the puck, and he lost 12-of-22 face-offs as well while facing off directly against his Selke Trophy winning competitor in Patrice Bergeron. Kopitar has never been really all that impressive going up against No. 37 over the years, and he hasn’t really been a killer when it comes to facing the Bruins. That sort of thing played out again for the Kings against the Bruins this season with guys like Kopitar and Doughty not quite enough against Boston. 

 

TURNING POINT: The Bruins scored the game’s first goal in the first period, and that proved to be one of the big difference-makers in the eventual victory for the Black and Gold. Charlie McAvoy’s early goal put the Bruins on the board and forced the LA Kings to start chasing the game a little bit more in a strange sequence of events that hasn’t been the norm with the Bruins much as of late. Once McAvoy darted in after the offensive zone face-off and scored in the first, the rest was up to a Bruins team that’s managed to score the first goal of the game for just the seventh time in 18 games this season. Given the real lack of depth on the roster for the B’s due to injuries, it’s vital to take an early lead and force the Kings, or any other opponent, to respect their game plan a little bit more armed with an early lead.    

 

HONORABLE MENTION: Charlie McAvoy was a beast for the Bruins while topping 27 minutes of ice time, scoring the game’s first goal in the first period and not depriving himself of any of the physical play over the 60-minute course of the game. It was McAvoy that took the puck in a win on an offensive zone face-off, and darted straight to the front of the net where he was able to lift a backhanded a shot past Jonathan Quick for the early goal. It was his second goal of the season, and his first score since lighting the lamp on opening night vs. Nashville. Above and beyond that McAvoy had a goal and a plus-1 rating in 27:53 of ice time, and filled out the dirty work portion of his job description with four blocked shots and four registered hits to go along with his skill contributions. 

 

BY THE NUMBERS: 6 – the alarming number of giveaways for Zdeno Chara in the win while also registering the game-winning goal in the second period amongst his 26:53 of ice time on the second night of a back-to-back game.  Chara was obviously far from perfect, but he was digging deep for the win. 

 

QUOTE TO NOTE: “No passengers. I think everybody pulled on the rope today. A lot of guys blocked shots and took hits to make plays, and that’s what it took.” –Bruce Cassidy to NESN on what the difference was in Thursday night’s win over the LA Kings. 

Bruins snap four-game losing streak with 2-1 win over Kings

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Bruins snap four-game losing streak with 2-1 win over Kings

LOS ANGELES -- The Boston Bruins and Los Angeles Kings were two teams going in the wrong direction, the losses suddenly piling up for both of them.

Something had to change when they met Thursday night and it did for the Bruins, who made Zdeno Chara's tiebreaking goal in the second period stand up for a 2-1 victory over the Kings.

"Our guys were sick of losing," Boston coach Bruce Cassidy said after his team snapped a four-game skid.

The Kings, however, continued their unexpected spiral. After starting the season 11-2-2 for the best record in the Western Conference, they have dropped four in a row.

"We're going to have to dig down," coach John Stevens said. "You can't have part of your lineup going. You need your whole lineup going if you're going to win. It doesn't matter who you're playing."

The Kings won in Boston on Oct. 28 in the last second of overtime off a faceoff. This time, the Bruins returned the favor.

Patrice Bergeron won a faceoff for Boston in the first period and the puck went to Charlie McAvoy, who skated across the crease and lifted a backhand over the shoulder of goalie Jonathan Quick.

"I thought we played a much more complete game," McAvoy said. "We really wanted to get a win. It's been a while. We put together a complete 60 minutes."

Los Angeles tied it 1-all at 4:33 of the second on a power play. Jussi Jokinen found Drew Doughty open in the middle and the defenseman flicked in his fourth of the season.

Boston regained the lead at 13:16 when Chara fired a slap shot from outside the lower part of the circle that deflected off the stick of Los Angeles' Trevor Lewis a few feet in front of the net. The puck nicked the back of Quick's jersey and went in for Chara's second goal this season.

"I'm real happy with the way we played," Chara said. "We battled and deserved to win."

But the Bruins still had to hang on to preserve the victory, with almost 27 minutes yet to play.

"It's been an issue for us, closing out games," Cassidy said. "We did it well, comfortable. We didn't look scrambly. We didn't look like we lost our composure or poise."

The Kings never got another puck past backup goalie Anton Khudobin, who stopped 27 shots and improved to 4-0-2.

Quick made 28 saves for Los Angeles.

"You had that sense we did not want to let it go," Chara said. "You had that feel on the bench."

The Kings aren't sure what to feel after getting off to such an impressive start and now suddenly reeling.

"I don't think we're playing a 60-minute game," Anze Kopitar said. "Parts of the games, we play like we need to be, where we're in their zone making plays, creating chances.

"And in parts of the games, we're just pretty much non-existent out there. That's got to change. We have to have a better effort from everybody for a full game."

NOTES: Boston center David Krejci returned after missing 11 games with an upper-body injury. He played 18 minutes. "I felt pretty good for my first game back," Krejci said. . Kopitar assisted on Doughty's goal, extending his point streak to a career-best nine games. . The Kings had one four-game losing streak all last season. . The Bruins earned their second road win of the season.

UP NEXT

Bruins: Head to San Jose to play the Sharks on Saturday.

Kings: Stay home Saturday to host the Florida Panthers.

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