Boston Bruins

Bruins unstoppable in the third period

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Bruins unstoppable in the third period

BOSTON -- Want one statistic that practically screams the Bruins will once again be hoisting the Stanley Cup this spring?

They've outscored their opponents 60-23 inthe third period this year.

The Bruins made their reputation last year by wearing down other teams through overwhelming depth and grinding physicality, and then dominating their weary opponents once the third period rolled around. The finish up strong mentality worked wonders for them on their way to a Stanley Cup victory in Vancouver last June, and disheartened a bevy ofverycountry strongteams along their journey.

But they're taking it to a new level this year, and its the kind of closingdomination that can make a team feel bulletproof. It could lead some hockey clubs to slack in the first 40 minutes as the Bruins did in victory over the Winnipeg Jets, but that's the exception rather than the rule this year.

We have always been a pretty good team in the third when we are leading, said Tuukka Rask, who won his sixth game in a row with 29 saves against Winnipeg in a 5-3 win Tuesday night . . . a game in which the B's entered the third period trailing, 3-2, but outscored Winnipeg 3-0 in the final 20 minutes. We have been able to get these comebacks and its huge for the teams confidence."

Leading the league in goals against is something the Bruins have done multiple times under Claude Julien, but being first in goals scored is an impressive new wrinkle. The structure and discipline has always been there, but the Bs are at a whole different stratosphere offensively these days. The two-way strength shows a mighty hockeyteam full of skill and smarts.

Tuesday night was the third time this season the Bruins have come from behind in the third period or overtime, and the fourth time theyve taken points out of one of those seeminglyuntenable situations.

Its a mental mindset. Today, we told ourselves we sucked in the first two periods and we have to get out there to win, said Dennis Seidenberg, painting quite a picture of the dressing room discussions between the second and third period. We just cant sleep through the whole game, but it shows that were mentally strong enough to turn it up in the third period when it counts and to get the win.More than just mental resolve, the Bruins have become stone cold killers in the final 20 minutes when they sense weakness in the enemy team on the other side of the ice. One sloppy turnover or one careless rebound turns into the backbreaking goal that cinches the game. Couple that with Boston's comeback ability, and there is some kind of confidence being brandished in those pivotal final minutes.

Its kind of developing a killer instinct, said coach Claude Julien of the thought process in the third period. Our guys really want to finish strong, and they dont want to give the other team an opportunity to get themselves back into it when we do have the lead. I just think they want to finish strong.

For the most part, I think our teams been pretty committed to playing 60-minute games, and tonight was obviously one of those, I would say, rare games where two of the periods were not up to our standards, but overall, I think our guys have done a pretty good job trying to put in a full-game effort.

The full-game effort has been commendable and the Bruins are outscoring their opponents by a healthy margin in each of the three periods in an NHL hockey game, but theres something about Bostons third periods that bodes well for their future.Some might even call their third period domination a Stanley Cup stat in the making.

Haggerty: Bjork looking like he's ready for his NHL shot

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Haggerty: Bjork looking like he's ready for his NHL shot

BOSTON – At this point in training camp with just a couple of preseason games to go, Monday night’s performance might have represented the exclamation point on Anders Bjork’s impressive drive to win an NHL roster spot. The 21-year-old Bjork has scored other goals during this preseason, but Monday night’s tally in Boston’s 4-2 win over the Chicago Blackhawks was his first while skating with prospective linemates Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand.

“I think we had more ice time together, which helped us get more comfortable and helped me kind of learn their chemistry a bit more,” said Bjork, who finished with 21 goals and 52 points in 29 games for Notre Dame last season. “Obviously, they have a ton of chemistry and they’re very easy to play with, of course, but you know, it’s nice to get more shifts with them and kind of pick up on their patterns and stuff like that.”

In fact, it’s become easy to see Bjork now winning the right wing spot with No. 37 and No. 63 after watching them work together in perfect concert for Boston’s third goal of the night.

Already up by a 2-0 score, Marchand turned over a puck in the Chicago defensive zone while on the forecheck hunt, and managed to work it over to Bergeron for a quick, backhanded saucer pass to the slot area. The alert Bjork stepped up into the high slot and one-timed the puck past Corey Crawford to give the Bruins a three-goal lead on Monday night, and allow all involved a sigh of heavy relief that Boston has found at least one rookie ready to hold down top-6 NHL job.

“He’s got that speed and the smarts to get open and then find the openings in the quiet ice. It was a great play by him just to get open, and for me to see him. He made it really easy,” said Patrice Bergeron. “He skates well, he made some great plays, we just need to keep talking and finding each other more and more on the ice.”

Given the overall scope of Bjork’s performance in camp, his steady presence on a line with Bergeron and Marchand during the preseason and his speedy skill set, the rookie is stating a strong case that he’s ready for NHL prime time. It would be a major training camp shocker to this humble hockey writer if Bjork is anywhere other than in the Bruins lineup when they drop the puck against the Nashville Predators on Oct. 5.  

“Yes, it does [look like Bjork is NHL ready]. The competition will stiffen for him and we’ll keep evaluating that. Still, he’s got skill, speed, and courage. He gets to the dirty areas. He’s hard to play against [and gives] second effort on pucks,” said Bruce Cassidy. “It’s not one-and-done with him. And for a young kid, that’s special, to be able to hang in and there and battle for those turnovers. That’s usually the part of the game they have to continue to grind on them.

“But he’s got a lot of that. Maybe that’s Bergy and March’s influence, I’d like to think they have some of that, because that’s their game. Marchy never quits. Bergy never quits. They’re going to be a hard line to play against if they are that dogged on the puck every shift.”

There are still two preseason games remaining before the real thing, so it makes little sense for the Bruins to pronounce Bjork ready for NHL duty until the time comes. Bjork’s combination of blazing skating speed, decision-making and confident swagger on the ice have pushed him to the top of Boston’s prospect list when it comes to being closest to play in the NHL. All were on display in his 12:48 of ice time with a goal and a plus-1 rating to go along with two shots on net, a hit and a takeaway while playing the fast, aggressive hockey that Boston prefers these days.

Bjork could have even had a second goal after he intercepted an Erik Gustafsson outlet pass, but missed the net high with a shot in close while going for his second goal of the game. All in all, it was another hurdle cleared by a talented Notre Dame standout that certainly feels like he’s destined to make the opening day roster, and equally ordained to start in a top-6 right wing role with arguably the best duo in the entire NHL.

It will be interesting to see just how good Bjork can be on a daily basis at the NHL level, and if he can get into becoming the 20 goals/50 points range player that should be in his future.  

Now it’s up simply up to Bjork to finish up strong in the preseason when he’s paired with Bergeron and Marchand, and continue on the straight-ahead path toward cracking the Bruins roster for years to come. It would appear he’s poised to “pop” in training camp just as Brandon Carlo did a year ago, and stand as one of those talented youngsters ready to help bridge the gap between talented rookies and established core veterans.

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Kyrie Irving says details of relationship with LeBron is 'not anybody’s business'

Kyrie Irving says details of relationship with LeBron is 'not anybody’s business'

CANTON, Mass. – LeBron James has embraced the fact that Kyrie Irving has moved on, but you get a sense that there’s still a bit of ‘what if. . .?” that James is still thinking about.

"I was wondering if there was something I could have did better to make him not want to be traded," James told reporters during Cleveland’s Media Day on Monday. "Is it the way the season finished, or, was it me coming back in the first place? Was it the coaching changes or the GM change, or, I don't know. I had so many different emotions go through my head."

When told about James wondering if there was something he could have done better to not make him ask for a trade, Irving responded, “Yeah.”

Irving declined to get into specifics, saying, “If we ever have that conversation, I don’t think it’s for anybody but me and him.”

He added, “Even if there are things, it’s really not anybody’s business. It’s between two men. That’s really where it is.”

Irving, a four-time All-Star in his six seasons with the Cavs, asked for a trade request in July.

Cleveland talked to several teams, and were seemingly focused on trying to send him to a team in the Western Conference.

While there was considerable interest, the Cavs didn’t see any deals come across their desk to their liking which is when they rekindled conversations with Boston.

After initially coming to terms of a trade, Cleveland was concerned that Isaiah Thomas’ still-on-the-mend hip injury was more serious than they had initially thought and asked for additional compensation in the form of a first-round pick.

The Celtics indicated during their initial talks that Thomas might not be ready at the start of the season. His timetable still remains uncertain, but reports out of Cleveland indicate that he may be ready to play prior to January.

Both Boston and Cleveland found a happy medium with the trade eventually being Irving to Boston in exchange for Thomas, Jae Crowder, Ante Zizic, a 2018 unprotected first-round pick from Brooklyn along with a 2020 second-round pick Boston got from Miami, that they conveyed to the Cavs.

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