Bruins

Anders Bjork hoping to build on his first NHL goal

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Anders Bjork hoping to build on his first NHL goal

GLENDALE, Arizona – In a rookie season that’s been a little turbulent through the first four games, Anders Bjork certainly had a performance to build on in Saturday night’s win. It wasn’t dominant by any means or the full potential of what the speedy ex-Notre Dame forward will do once he gets his game together at the NHL level, but there was something encouraging about the 21-year-old scoring his first NHL goal in Boston’s 6-2 win over the Arizona Coyotes at Gila River Arena.

It was a third period afterthought rather than a game-winner, but it was also a really nice play on the PP with Jake DeBrusk working a cross-ice pass to Bjork wide open on the backdoor. Bjork slammed the puck home to close out the B’s scoring for the day, and was all smiles afterward excited about his NHL milestone moment.

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“Especially after a few games you start thinking about it too much, so it’s nice to get it out of the way and focus on playing hockey the right way,” said Bjork, who finished with 21 goals and 52 points in 39 games as a scoring machine for the Fighting Irish last season. “It felt like I was struggling the first couple of games production-wise, so it’s important to get that goal and carry that momentum into the upcoming games here.

“It definitely [felt good]. It was nice to get it on the power play too because we haven’t been good on there, but we’ve been moving it around in practice and building some chemistry there.”

Consistency becomes the big challenge now for a youngster like Bjork as he carves out a role for himself at the NHL level, but that will most likely continue to be elusive in the early going as he experiences all things NHL for the first time.

“There’s a bit of an adjustment period and I’m still finding my stride, and trying to look for ways to use my speed more effectively,” said Bjork. “Even on the road you’re traveling to different places and games are at different times, and you’ve got to find ways to bring the same game for your teammates, coaches and everyone so they know what they’re going to get out of you.”

The Bjork goal capped off an impressive night for Boston’s “young guns” power play unit featuring DeBrusk, Bjork, Danton Heinen, Charlie McAvoy and David Krejci, a quintet that scored a pair of special teams goals in the road win. Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy certainly hopes that getting on the scoreboard spurs Bjork on to bigger and better things as his fellow rookie winger, DeBrusk, continues to make strides in the playmaking department.

It’s probably not a coincidence that the Bruins rookies are a bit of a bellwether for the Black and Gold: When the first-year guys have played well the B’s have won thus far, and when they don’t then it’s a much different story.  

“It was kind of a clean-up goal, but any one will count. The first one is always a nice one to get out of the way and he had a few good looks in the third,” said Cassidy. “Hopefully like Jake [DeBrusk] he gets it out of the way and gets his confidence moving forward.

“I thought Jake was a little ahead of Anders in terms of his pace. Maybe that’s because he’s on the left side and he ends up seeing more pucks from a guy like [David] Krejci, but at the end of the day both guys were good.”

With both Bjork and DeBrusk now on the board just a handful of games into the season, the Bruins are hoping they continue to see bigger, faster and better things out of a rookie duo manning important roles for the Black and Gold. 

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Haggerty: Bruins should pass on trading for Wayne Simmonds

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Haggerty: Bruins should pass on trading for Wayne Simmonds

DALLAS -- Interesting times for the Bruins as they head into NHL Draft weekend here, as a number of names have been bandied about as possibilities,. Things are fluid right now as far as targets and potential strategies go, what with the draft being held this weekend and free agency opening on July 1. 

One name that has popped up in recent days is Flyers power forward Wayne Simmonds, who is entering the final year of his contract at age 29. Simmonds was mentioned as a possible target by NBC Sports Boston way back in May, and has been kicked up in the last few days with The Athletic’s Michael Russo mentioning him as possible trade bait for the Minnesota Wild. 

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In a vacuum, Simmonds would be a terrific second-line fit for Boston. Despite battling injuries that culminated with him undergoing hip surgery, Simmonds scored 24 goals and 46 points last year. Just a couple of seasons ago he put up 32 goals and 60 points. At his best, the 6-foot-2, 183-pounder is a prototypical power forward capable of scoring goals around the net, throwing big hits and dropping the gloves with a ferocious level of intimidation when the situation calls for it. 

He’s very much in the mold of Milan Lucic, Nathan Horton and Jarome Iginla as the kind of power winger that’s been very good with David Krejci in the past, and would make the Bruins a little tougher and much harder to play against. 

So, clearly, as a player Simmonds would be “a great addition” for the Bruins, as Bruce Cassidy said about Ilya Kovalchuk, with all things being equal. 

Here’s the rub: The cost is going to be considerable for Simmonds. The Bruins will have to give up significant assets to get a full year of Simmonds ahead of his free-agent walk year, and then they’d need to pay up again to sign him to a big contract extension at some point next season.

Certainly the B’s would feel beholden to sign Simmonds if they gave up blue-chip prospects and draft picks to land him.

As with most trade discussions over the last year, Jake DeBrusk is a name that's been an ask from other team. Even if it's Danton Heinen or Anders Bjork involved in the discussions instead, the Bruins would need to give up a valued young winger in order to get the more established Simmonds. 

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They’d be doing all this for a big-bodied, 29-year-old player who's probably going to start slowing down, and breaking down, over the next few seasons.

A couple of years ago landing Simmonds would have been a master stroke move for the Bruins as they sought to replace Lucic’s hulking presence in the lineup. Certainly they could have used the offensive punch on their second line, where Rick Nash disappointed after arriving at the trade deadline last spring. 

But in this humble hockey writer’s opinion, the window should probably be closed at this point on acquiring Simmonds, given the cost in terms of both assets and future dollars.

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Morning Skate: One man's NHL awards ballot (sorry, Patrice)

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Morning Skate: One man's NHL awards ballot (sorry, Patrice)

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading while giving full credit to the NHL for an excellent awards show that adeptly highlighted very emotional hockey stories involving Las Vegas and the Humboldt Broncos. Seeing all those Humboldt kids together while the Broncos head coach’s widow made an awards speech was very moving.

-- Speaking of the awards, here’s my full PHWA ballot submitted at the end of the season. I’ll admit that I had a very different line of thinking than most with my Hart Trophy vote, as I didn’t have Taylor Hall in my top five. I wasn’t going to penalize players like Evgeni Malkin and Nikita Kucherov for having outstanding seasons on good teams, as it seemed like this season’s voting was all about players, like Hall and Nathan MacKinnon, who essentially carried middling teams to the playoffs. I’d also stick with Patrice Bergeron as the best defensive forward in the NHL even if he missed 22 percent of the season (18 games) due to injuries. I know that many voters ended up dinging Bergeron for the time missed to injuries, and that opened the door for another very viable candidate in Anze Kopitar to win the Selke for the second time.

Victor Hedman for Norris and Mathew Barzal for Calder were both no-brainers, and the Lady Byng is always a toss-up as I didn’t have winner William Karlsson on my ballot either. Anyway, here’s my ballot:

Hart Trophy

1. Evgeni Malkin Pittsburgh Penguins
2. Claude Giroux Philadelphia Flyers
3. Nathan MacKinnon Colorado Avalanche
4. Nikita Kucherov Tampa Bay Lightning
5. Blake Wheeler Winnipeg Jets

Norris Trophy

1. Victor Hedman Tampa Bay Lightning
2. PK Subban Nashville Predators
3. John Carlson Washington Capitals
4. Drew Doughty Los Angeles Kings
5. Shayne Gostisbehere Philadelphia Flyers

Calder Trophy

1. Mathew Barzal New York Islanders
2. Brock Boeser Vancouver Canucks
3. Yanni Gourde Tampa Bay Lightning
4. Charlie McAvoy Boston Bruins
5. Clayton Keller Arizona Coyotes

Lady Byng Trophy

1. Ryan O'Reilly Buffalo Sabres
2. Alex DeBrincat Chicago Blackhawks
3. Ryan Spooner New York Rangers
4. Mark Stone Ottawa Senators
5. Evgenii Dadonov Florida Panthers

Selke Trophy

1. Patrice Bergeron Boston Bruins
2. Anze Kopitar Los Angeles Kings
3. Jonathan Toews Chicago Blackhawks
4. Sidney Crosby Pittsburgh Penguins
5. Aleksander Barkov Florida Panthers

-- Think there might be some angry Edmonton Oilers fans who want a refund on the Hall-for-Adam Larsson trade that Peter Chiarelli engineered a couple of seasons ago? Yeah, I think there probably might be.

-- FOH (Friend of Haggs) Darren Dreger says his gut feeling is that Ottawa defenseman Erik Karlsson is going to get traded.

-- Which teams might be interested in Buffalo Sabres center Ryan O’Reilly? Well, there should be plenty, given what kind of player he is. This is part of the problem with the B’s trying to deal David Krejci or David Backes this offseason. There are going to be much better, younger players available out there on the trade market like O’Reilly.  

-- Now that the foundation is in place for the Toronto Maple Leafs, the job becomes taking that next step with the Leafs.

-- It sounds like it’s going to be a busy weekend for Jeff Gorton and the New York Rangers as they have a slew of first-round picks to make on Friday night.

-- It sounds like Dallas isn’t all that pumped about hosting the NHL Draft this weekend. Or maybe they just don’t know it’s going on.

-- For something completely different: Boy, Kevin McHale sure gained some attention this morning after being a very noticeable audience member during yesterday’s Trump speech in Minnesota.