BRIGHTON, Mass. – Anders Bjork has played just one game since the start of the month of March and that’s definitely served as a current bump on the road for what’s been a solid season from the 23-year-old winger.
It’s been mostly good things for the speedy, skilled winger with nine goals, 19 points and a plus-5 rating in 58 games this season. He’s stayed healthy and been mostly consistent in his first full NHL campaign. Essentially, he’s carved out a future in Boston based on the way he’s played this year and it was at least part of the reason the Bruins felt comfortable dealing away fellow young winger Danton Heinen to the Anaheim Ducks for Nick Ritchie.
However, as the intensity has bumped up since the Bruins got back from the NHL All-Star break, Bjork hasn’t been able to elevate his game. That ultimately led to him being scratched in three of the last four games. And it could soon be four of five games with it looking unlikely for him to play in Philly against the Flyers on Tuesday night.
Bruce Cassidy talked a few days ago about what he’s going to need to see out of Bjork when he does get back into the lineup after not doing much with the one change he got last Thursday night against the Florida Panthers.
“It’s about being a little stronger overall,” said Cassidy. “I thought in the Florida game he got knocked around a little bit early on. He got better as it went along. That’s what you’re going to see…more determined men style-of-play in the playoffs.”
With zero goals and just three assists in his last 13 games, Bjork understands that it’s a competitive situation for playing time after the Bruins dealt for wingers Ondrej Kase and Nick Ritchie at the trade deadline. He also gets that being stronger, more physical and a little more intense is the only way he’s going to force his way back into the lineup with the playoffs less than a month away.
“I’ve got to stay positive. I view it as supporting the team the best way I can. That comes from competing in practice, working hard and showing that I am dialed in. I think that has an effect on other people, so that’s my mentality,” said Bjork. “But with the next opportunity to play, I need to show some confidence out there, especially when I have the puck. [I need] a little bit more of an edge and a little grit to me. Butch talked to me about being a little harder on the puck and maybe being a little harder on my skates.
“I think when I’m doing that I’m a lot more consistent and I think that’s what the coaching staff is looking for from me at this time of year. Teams are fighting right now and the hockey is really good, and we have a lot of competition now so the mistakes can cost you.”
Step one for Bjork improving things is understanding there’s an issue and that doesn’t seem to be a problem at this point after Bjork and his head coach had a conversation about his situation. Now, it’s a matter of Bjork seizing the chance the next time he gets it. He’ll do that by showing everybody he’s ready for the playoff-level intensity that isn’t going to be taking any breaks between now and the end of the postseason.