Boston Bruins

Marchand: 'It's going to be a battle' tonight vs. Leafs

Marchand: 'It's going to be a battle' tonight vs. Leafs

TORONTO – The Bruins know they have a hugely important week in front of them when it comes to finally locking down their playoff spot and an equally big divisional game awaits them on Tuesday vs. the Ottawa Senators in Boston.

Still, the Bruins were taking the strict “one game a time” approach in preparation for Monday night’s important tilt vs. the Maple Leafs at the Air Canada Centre. It’s a mantra that goes from regular-season cliché to tunnel vision necessity once the games begin to grow in importance. This week’s four-game set against Toronto, Ottawa, Tampa Bay and the Islanders is the most important week in Boston’s season to date.

“We all see the standings and we all know where we’re at. We know [Toronto and Ottawa] are important games in our division and huge rivals. We play against them so many times, so it makes for a big matchup,” said Patrice Bergeron. “We need to make sure we think about this Toronto game first and then go from there. It’s a big week for us, but we really need to think about Toronto first.”

It’s with good reason that Boston has their mind on Toronto rather than looking ahead. The young, fast and dynamic Leafs have beaten the Bruins in all three previous meetings this season with the Toronto outscoring the Black and Gold by a 14-7 margin. A regulation win for Boston could drive Toronto all the way back to five points behind the Bruins for that third Atlantic Division playoff spot with just a game in hand for the Leafs and just 10 games to go in Boston’s season.

That would allow the Bruins to start focusing on perhaps catching the Senators after Ottawa, four points head of the B's, lost its fourth game in a row on Sunday. Home ice in the first round of the playoffs could even still be in play for the Black and Gold, but again “one game at a time” is the phrase of the day.

“A lot can happen in 11 games, but it’s a huge game without question,” said Brad Marchand. “It should have a playoff-type feel, so hopefully we’re prepared. We have to make sure we bring our best game. It’s going to be a battle.”

That kind of cushion would make it almost impossible for Toronto to catch up to them barring another late-season Boston collapse that doesn’t seem likely this time around under a new coach. 


Bjork faces 'good test' in first real audition with Bergeron and Marchand


Bjork faces 'good test' in first real audition with Bergeron and Marchand

BRIGHTON, Mass – After a week of wondering what exactly 21-year-old Anders Bjork would look like skating with Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand, the former Notre Dame standout will get his chance in a prime forward spot tonight against a stacked Flyers lineup.

With Claude Giroux, Wayne Simmonds, Ivan Provorov, Radko Gudas and Jakub Voracek among others expected to play for the Flyers, it will be a good NHL-style test for Bjork when the Bruins and Flyers suit up for the exhibition game at TD Garden. 

The first-year pro already has a goal while playing in more of a third-line spot with Ryan Spooner and Matt Beleskey on Monday night, but tonight’s audition with two of the world’s best players is exactly the kind of thing any young hockey player dreams about.

“I’ve been learning a lot from their example, and a lot from them just talking to us young guys,” said Bjork, who had 21 goals and 52 points in 39 dominant games for the Fighting Irish last season. 

“One of the biggest things is just consistency, and bringing your best in every drill and every shift in a game. You see how intense they are and how much they want to win every puck battle.

“It was definitely helpful to play in a preseason game [already], and get that confidence going. I hope to build on that. It’s crazy being able to play with players of that caliber [of Bergeron and Marchand]. Obviously, they’re some of the best players in the world. I’m just trying to do my best and keep up with them. I try to help them in practice any way I can.”

On Thursday night, Bjork will officially go from the title of practice helper to showing how his skating speed, high-level offensive instincts and hockey smarts can assist Bergeron and Marchand in a game.

“You can see that he’s a dynamic player who is willing to attack,” said Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy, in an apt description of exactly what he’s looking for in his system on the ice.

On paper and in camp practices, it has looked like a comfortable fit between with one of the NHL’s best tandems and much more of a Tyler Seguin/Reilly Smith-type fit than a Brett Connolly third-wheel kind of winger.

It got to a point with Connolly on their wing that Bergeron and Marchand were basically playing two-man hockey. That’s perfectly understandable when you’ve got the kind of chemistry that those two have built while scoring hundreds of goals in six years together, but it’s undoubtedly preferable to get a right wing who can bury some of the prime scoring chances he’s sure to enjoy playing with two All-World forwards.

Bergeron doesn’t anticipate the need for much hand-holding with Bjork and that should absolutely be the case if he wants to be one of those B’s prospects who makes an immediate impact.

“It’s been going well in practices, but obviously you want to translate that over to games on the ice against real opponents,” said Bergeron. “It’s going to be a good test for us. Hopefully, we’re out there talking a lot and we see some things that we can build off of.

“I like it. It’s nice to be able to help as much as possible. Most of the time the guys that are on our wing don’t need that much help. But you’re always there if need be, and it’s always nice to share your experiences and what you see on the ice.”

Thus far in camp, the young forward prospects have been a dominant factor while scoring and looking like they belong. The degree of difficulty rises with each passing preseason game and it will be a great gauge for Bjork’s readiness in a premium spot when he takes the ice with Boston’s dynamic duo. 


Morning Skate: Kurz takes Sharks' coverage to The Athletic


Morning Skate: Kurz takes Sharks' coverage to The Athletic

Here are the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading, while appreciating Jimmy Kimmel more with each passing day.

*Congrats to FOH (Friend of Haggs) Kevin Kurz on his move to The Athletic. Here he details why he’ll now be covering the Sharks for them.

*Joffrey Lupul has apologized for intimating that the Toronto Maple Leafs are “cheating” when it comes to player injuries.

*PHT writer Cam Tucker has Loui Eriksson looking to bounce back with the Vancouver Canucks after a tough first year there. He’ll probably be better than he was last season, but one thing I learned about Eriksson during his time in Boston is that you’re not going to see his best unless there’s a reason for him to be at his best. Sitting in Vancouver in the middle of a comfortable, big money contract on a mediocre-to-bad hockey team isn’t exactly going to ratchet up the urgency.

*Tampa Bay defenseman prospect Mikhail Sergachev has “NHL written all over him” after a strong start to training camp with the Lightning. That’s music to management’s ears down there after they gave up Jonathan Drouin for him in the offseason.

*Nick Cotsonika chronicles the “big first step” that the NHL has made into China with an exhibition game there between the Kings and Canucks.

*This blog post pokes fun at Don LaGreca for a rant about geometry, but I agree with his overall point that the vast majority of people choose to like sports exactly because it doesn’t include these complex mathematical formulas that the fancy stats brigade is trying to introduce into the sports world with more and more force.