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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No hesitation from Chara in scoring after scary incident in Montreal

No hesitation from Chara in scoring after scary incident in Montreal

BOSTON – Less than 48 hours after one of his legendarily hard slap shots put a Montreal Canadiens forward in the hospital after striking him in the head, Zdeno Chara didn’t hesitate when given the chance to wind up and blast away on Monday afternoon.

It was the 40-year-old Chara that rocketed a slapper past Kari Lehtonen at the end of the second period, and in doing so energized the Bruins while getting them on the scoreboard. The Chara goal helped earn the Black and Gold a point in overtime before eventually falling to the Dallas Stars by a 3-2 score at TD Garden on Monday afternoon.

The Bruins captain had been texting with the felled Montreal winger on Monday, and was fully aware that Phillip Danault was out of the hospital and doing well aside from understandable concussion symptoms after a puck to the head. Perhaps that eased Chara’s mind just a little when it came time to lean into another wind-up slapper on Monday, but it was also certainly aided by the lack of brave bodies willing to front one of his heavy, hard point blasts.

“I obviously spoke to Phillip a number of times. I talked to him right after the game and wanted to make sure he was okay, and he texted me back that he’s doing fine. He’s been released [from the hospital] and that’s very positive, good news,” said Chara. “It’s obviously very unfortunate that it’s something that happens quite often, but it’s something you never want to see with somebody getting hit and hurt. I’m very happy he’s going to recover fully and hopefully he’s back on the ice and playing hockey [soon] like we all do.”

Was there any hesitation to Chara winding up and stepping into a 100-mph slap shot so quickly after the ugly incident in Montreal?

“It’s something that doesn’t happen very often where you have that clean [shooting] path to the net where you can settle the puck, take a look and take a full slapper,” said Chara. “Usually teams play so well structurally that there’s already somebody fronting it, and you’ve got to get it through him with bodies in front. It does happen, but it’s nice that you have that time to put everything on it.”

That’s exactly what the 6-foot-9 defenseman did in sparking the Bruins to come back from a 2-0 deficit and push for the overtime point while extending their point streak to a season-best 13 games and counting.

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Overtime heroics a reminder of what Bruins gave up in Seguin

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Overtime heroics a reminder of what Bruins gave up in Seguin

BOSTON – The Tyler Seguin trade from the Bruins is pretty much ancient history at this point.

It was almost five years ago, all of the good-but-not-great players Boston received in the deal from Dallas are long gone. The Bruins general manager that engineered the big trade is now dealing with totally different brush fires while running a star-crossed Edmonton Oilers group.

But the one Stars visit per season to Boston usually serves as a reminder of what the B’s dealt away in the Fourth of July trade, and for perhaps the first time ever Seguin looked like a legit, all-around No. 1 center in the Stars 3-2 overtime win over the B’s at TD Garden. Seguin made the highlight reel with an overtime game-winner after dangling through the entire Bruins group on the ice, and watching bemusement as Bruins kept diving at him trying to stop him.

The gassed trio of Ryan Spooner, David Pastrnak and Matt Grzelcyk were on the ice hemmed into the D-zone for a long time, and simply couldn’t get the puck away from the Stars once a delayed penalty was called on Grzelcyk.

“I felt like everyone was just sliding at me, and the whole time I wanted to pass, so I was just kind of looking for the right play and just kept holding it,” said Seguin, who is on pace for 39 goals and 75 points this season with the Stars. “I just kind of shot it and luckily it went in.”

It was more than luck as Anton Khudobin had already dropped into a crazed double-pad stacked save attempt while Seguin was still holding patiently onto the puck.

“That’s really tough, to be honest. He has the puck there, and all the way, all the way, going, going, going, going and I mean, guys were laying down and trying to block the shot,” said Khudobin. “He had a lot of patience and I think it went between my legs or something like that and it’s just tough. Good goal by him.'

“Nothing is impossible. You know, [Seguin] is a good player and he scored a pretty good goal. But at the same time I can stop that. But I didn’t this time and overtime is not really easy because it’s 3-on-3.”

But all the overtime heroics aside, Seguin was solid throughout the game. It was almost enough to make Bruins fans go through the entire gamut of emotions again at one of a number of trades where the organization cut bait on a talented player at a very young juncture of their career.

“I think he’s through testing. I think he has made himself to be a very good player, and he’s accountable in every situation. He’s really matured. I think he’s a guy that we don’t even worry about anymore,” said Dallas head coach Ken Hitchcock. “Everyone talked about, ‘Can you make him a one?’ Well, quite frankly, he’s a [No. 1 center], and he’s playing like a one. He’s played six games in a row like this, and this is what you want in a number one center. He’s doing the job.

“He’s killing penalties, he’s out there taking key face-offs, he’s quarterbacking the power play, and he’s playing against the other team’s best player. To me, that’s what a [No. 1 center] does, and that’s exactly what he’s doing.”

Mostly matched up against the Perfection Line that he used to be a part of, Seguin managed a 12-for-21 performance in the face-off circle while holding Bergeron, Marchand and Pastrnak off the board offensively. Even better for Seguin and Dallas, he was on the ice for the second Stars goal against the Bergeron trio for only the second even strength goal they’ve given up all season.

Seguin killed penalties, he finished with four shot attempts, had a couple of takeaways and played the kind of mature, 200-foot game that most wondered if he’d ever be capable of in his NHL career.

So credit where it’s due for Seguin showing all of that while clearly still in a headspace where coming to Boston is special for him.

“It’s special and it’s weird playing here still. You know, I enjoy the anthem, and looking up and seeing the banner for the team that I was a part of. It’s always going to be special, you know, playing here and having old teammates on the team,” said Seguin. “I’ve been thinking a lot more of defense, a lot more of face-offs, and a lot more of, you know, the little things. I’ve been judging my performances based on those things more than goals and assists. That’s been the biggest change for me, trying to put the work in, and [against the Bruins] it worked out for me.”

The Bruins have long since chalked up dealing a horse (Seguin) for ponies (Loui Eriksson, Reilly Smith, Matt Fraser and Joe Morrow) as a big fat loss considering it never got them any closer to another Stanley Cup, and it didn’t give them any players still of use to the organization less than five years later.

But Monday afternoon’s overtime loss to Seguin and the Stars was a different kind of frustrating while watching a more mature, seemingly changed Seguin that would have fit in very nicely with the direction that the Bruins are headed these days.

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