Washington Capitals

Struggling Bjork may take a seat vs. Rangers

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Struggling Bjork may take a seat vs. Rangers

BRIGHTON, Mass – It’s normally a sequence of peaks and valleys for rookies in their first foray through the NHL and Anders Bjork is definitely in one of those lower points right now. 

Bjork, 21, registered a season-low 6:47 of ice time in the Bruins 5-3 loss to the Washington Capitals on Thursday night at TD Garden and was benched for portions of the second and third period after looking pretty timid throughout the game.

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Bjork has just a single point and two shots on net in his past six games since returning from an upper-body injury believed to be a concussion. It's been an extremely quiet period for a player expected to make a top-six forward impact. It’s all trending toward a potential healthy scratch for Bjork on Saturday against the New York Rangers with a healthy Ryan Spooner potentially taking over for him on David Krejci’s left side.

“We’ll make the decision tomorrow, but [a Bjork scratch] is definitely a possibility and something we’ve discussed,” said Bruce Cassidy. “I just find that he’s not as strong on the puck as he was at the start of the year, or as quick to create turnovers. There are parts of his game that are always going to be worked on, like his play away from the puck.

“But the issue right now is being strong on pucks. The goal [Washington] they scored the other night is a good example. We make a play through the middle of the ice tape-to-tape, he’s in the crease and he’s not able to handle a puck. They’re coming back at us while we’re thinking we’re on offense. There were breakdowns after that clearly, but that’s an area [that needs improving]. Just before Charlie [McAvoy’s] penalty, we’re on a draw and [Bjork] gets pushed off a puck that comes back on us and we get beat up ice. Some of it is plays where he needs to be better, and some of it is where he’s at in his career where other guys are just stronger.”

Perhaps some of Bjork’s hesitancy is also an after-effect of getting tattooed in the middle of the ice by Tampa Bay's Matt Martin in a play that knocked him out of the lineup for a few weeks. Coping with the immediacy of those kinds of hits is part of life in pro hockey for a young player. It's a considerable adjustment when going straight from college hockey to the NHL.

Bjork knows that he hasn’t been a high-impact player since returning from injury and hasn’t really utilized his greatest offensive assets, speed and skill.  It may not matter much if Bjork watches Saturday from the ninth floor of the Garden as a healthy scratch, but he has a plan to get his game back on track when he does get his next opportunity for the Black and Gold.

“I think it’s mainly a confidence thing. I have to use [my speed] and it’s on me if I don’t,” said Bjork, who has four goals and 10 points in 22 games this season. “I think I just have to have that confidence every shift, so I can avoid the mistakes. There are bounces good and bad in hockey, but you create your own luck sometimes. You do that by playing the right way, and when things aren’t going your way you need to get back to basics of making things simple. That’s what I need to focus on: Making the simple plays and doing the details right.”

A healthy scratch was exactly the right thing to spark fellow rookie Jake DeBrusk when he was scuffling a bit last month, so perhaps the same plan of attack for Bjork to unlock his game while on a pace for 14 goals and 34 points this season. 

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Cassidy takes issue with no 'third man in' call

Cassidy takes issue with no 'third man in' call

BOSTON – Brad Marchand understands the rabble-rousing game as much as anybody at the NHL level.

So, the Bruins left winger isn’t going to be the one to complain when somebody begins targeting him with the same kind of borderline hits and rough-edged play that he doles out on a regular basis. That was the case again in the 5-3 loss to the Washington Capitals on Thursday night at TD Garden.

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“That’s his game. I mean, [Tom Wilson] plays that way, and he’s effective at it, so, you know, that’s what’s got him a job in the NHL and continues to allow him to play,” said Marchand. “Again, you know, he’s effective at what he does.”

Marchand finished with a point and a minus-2 and was once again bumped and knocked around by the bigger, stronger Capitals team that knocked him out of the lineup with a high hit from Wilson more than a month ago.

Once again the 6-foot-4, 220-pound Wilson was at the heart of the proceedings in this one as he jumped on the back of Marchand, and caused the B’s winger to slam the back of his head into the boards after he’d already squared off with Dmitry Orlov following a whistle. Both Marchand and Orlov were understandably whistled for matching cross-checking penalties at the end of the second period, but Wilson got away completely free despite clearly jumping in as the third guy into the fracas.

Compare that with the lame third man in/instigator call against Jake DeBrusk last week when he stepped up to defend a teammate the proper way and it’s no surprise Bruce Cassidy was a little miffed at the officiating after the game Thursday.

“I voiced my opinion at the end of the period. I think it’s wrong. And to me, to just put two guys in the box in that situation, when a third guy comes in there should have been an additional call,” said Cassidy. “That’s the way I felt about it. They didn’t see it that way. Cleary two guys, [Dimitry] Orlov and

Marchy [Brad Marchand] was battling and for him to come in is unnecessary to say the least in that situation. Their job is to police it on the ice. In that particular instance, that’s the way they saw it. That’s the way it went.”

Of greater concern to the Bruins should be Wilson continuing to target Marchand in plays that result in smacking his head into the boards and putting him in danger of another head injury after he’s already been in the concussion protocol twice this season. Nobody from the Bruins stepped up to Wilson in the third period after pulling that stunt with No. 63. The feeling at this address is that it’s going to continue happening with Marchand until somebody decides they’re going to protect Boston’s star player. 

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Bruins closing in on the right chemistry to get over the hump against the top dogs

Bruins closing in on the right chemistry to get over the hump against the top dogs

BOSTON -- It has to be getting to the point where the Bruins are tired of talking about defeat at the hands of the Washington Capitals, but if it’s that bothersome then they really ought to do something about it.

The Bruins dropped their 11th straight game to the Washington Capitals with a 5-3 defeat at TD Garden on Thursday on the second night of a back-to-back after getting in from snowy Detroit in the wee hours of the morning around 3 a.m.

The Bruins outshot the Capitals by a 37-21 margin and they managed to claw away for three goals against Caps netminder Braden Holtby, who routinely shuts down the Black and Gold. But they also once again got pushed around by a bigger, stronger and deeper Capitals hockey club, and showed their youth in the most important points of the game against Washington.

It might have felt like it was encouraging for the Bruins to hit three crossbars in the loss, but the bottom line is that the B’s haven’t defeated the Capitals in any way, shape, or form since 2014. The Bruins continue to come up short against a high-powered Capitals attack and routinely choose the wrong time to loosen up and compete in an offensive shootout with Washington. The team needs to find a balance between being responsibility and agressiveness. 

“I think we’re all aware of it,” said Bruce Cassidy. “We haven’t had much success at all [against the Capitals]. They usually bring up the goaltender while the team plays well in front of him every time they play us. He’s got to be the benefactor, too. I thought [Capitals goaltender Braden Holtby] was very good for them. We needed more traffic because, because he plays so well against us in front of them, and we got a little late in the game, to get some second chances. Having said that we hit, I think, at least two or three crossbars, or posts. A couple other [shots] I thought were labeled that he made saves, and then a couple that we didn’t execute well enough in front of him."

“The first period, you know, we weren’t crisp in front of them. We had a couple opportunities, so part of that was probably due to the late arrival [coming from Detroit], but then we got going. That’s where we need to be better against him, so only the players can answer that, if they’re squeezing their sticks against him and this team. I don’t know if it’s in their heads, necessarily, at this time of year.”

Holtby has owned the Bruins for the better part of his with a career 13-2-0 record against the Bruins. A 1.81 career goals against average vs. Boston is incredible considering the amount of games they have played against one another. But this loss wasn’t about Holtby. The two teams combined for eight goals in somewhat of an offensive shootout. Washington’s goaltending was merely part of the backdrop of the Bruins once again getting pushed around versus the bigger, more talented, and experienced Caps. Young players like Charlie McAvoy, Anders Bjork, Brandon Carlo and Jake DeBrusk experiencing a bit of a rude awakening matching up against a grizzled, competitive Capitals bunch.

“At some point you definitely want to get it over with and win those games [versus the Capitals]. It’s not something necessarily that I was thinking before the game being honest with you,” said Patrice Bergeron, who scored a pair goals in defeat at the hands of the Capitals. “It was a back-to-back game. We knew it was a challenge and we had to be good and be smart. A few breakdowns and a little lack of discipline made us pay is the bottom line.”

In the past it’s been total men versus boys when the Bruins suited up against the Capitals in the entertaining rivalry. The one-sided results left the Bruins and their fans exasperated. This time around it was clear that the Bruins have closed some of the gaps separating them from the big Capitals bully in the Eastern Conference neighborhood, but none of it matters until they put up some points against them.

The Bruins need productive yet responsible offense play, stifling defense and lights out goaltending. If they can put it all these elements together the Bruins will show that they have closed the gap between themselves and the Capitals. They’re not there yet, but tonight was proof that they might be closing in on the right chemistry to bring home a victory. Once they get over this hump, the Bruins won’t have anthing to fear playing the Caps anymore.

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