Prague with the Bruins: Meeting the fans

278834.jpg

Prague with the Bruins: Meeting the fans

By Mary Paoletti
CSNNE.com

MEDIA SCRUM MEET AND GREET

The Bruins finally get a break from practice on Thursday. Instead of the usual ice time and Q&A, they do a media scrum outside of the team's hotel. That's a sentence that isn't impressive until "outside of the team's hotel" is explained.

The back entrance leads out to a ground-level, cobblestone terrace. Various podiums and cafe tables are set up for players and media members to congregate at. Two huge banquet tables are set up with water, tea and coffee. Bruins players file into this area to be attacked by reporters at will. The whole mess is safely cordoned off by a waist high metal fence.

This is on the other side of the fence.

The Charles Bridge: "Karl&367;v most".

It's one of Prague's most visited landmarks in part because it's a conduit between Old Town (Star M&283;sto) and Praha Castle (Prask hrad), but also because it's aesthetically and historically imposing.

It's a continuous alleyway, decorated by 30 statues and statuaries, that gently arcs over the gray Vltava river. And behind that? A bountiful panorama of rolling green hills broken up by some of the most beautiful architecture in the world. The whole scene is as impressive a backdrop as the Boston Bruins have ever had. It gives ice hockey an interesting air of refinement.

The fun starts when the fans show up. Over 100 of them.

Once the media backs off, a AAA travel group lines up for its turn at the team. People are decked out in Bruins jerseys and hats. One young lady has a spoked-B painted onto her manicure. They carry homemade banners and photos to have signed as they file into the gated terrace. With a short angle lens the whole scene could have been a Thursday night outside the TD Garden.

Zoom out.

These people spent thousands of dollars to be here. Some of them didn't know they would have an opportunity to shake hands with Shawn Thornton or ask Milan Lucic personally how his hand is feeling. The players are warm and gracious. I'm impressed that the organization wants to give back to the people who traveled so long and so far to support the team.

And there's more to come. Later today David Krejci and some of his teammates will be hosting a street hockey clinic in Old Town. This event will have more local flavor as far as the crowd goes.

Stay tuned.

Mary Paoletti can be reached at mpaoletti@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Mary on Twitter at http:twitter.comMary_Paoletti

Bjork returns to Notre Dame after impressing at Bruins' development camp

anders-bjork-071316.jpg

Bjork returns to Notre Dame after impressing at Bruins' development camp

Given that he’s a former fifth-round pick, he’s not a local guy with any Boston ties to speak of and that there isn’t a lot of fancy to his game, Anders Bjork might be a bit under the radar as far as Bruins prospects go right now. 

Still, the 19-year-old Notre Dame forward has been steadily rising among the ranks at the NCAA level and Bjork put on a pretty impressive show at B’s development camp right along with more hyped forwards like Danton Heinen and Jake DeBrusk.

Bjork showed great skating speed and a hard-nosed willingness to battle whether the puck was on or off his stick. Even better, he showed a finishing flourish with the puck whenever he was around the net. He was literally blowing by defenders with his speed throughout drills each and every day at camp, and it was hard not to notice. Time after time Bjork buried those chances earned through speed and tenacity and showed the offensive confidence that saw him lead Notre Dame in points (12 goals and 35 points in 35 games) last season as a sophomore.

“You can tell the guys that have been here. Grizzy [Matt Grzelcyk] has a great week and Anders [Bjork] has a great week because they’re just comfortable in what they’re doing,” said Bruins general manager Don Sweeney. “I mean they’ve played at the college hockey level for two, three, four years in some of these cases. They’re very comfortable in their own skin and in what they do.

"In Anders’ case he gained a tremendous amount of confidence in the World Juniors last year and you can tell he’s carrying that over offensively. He also plays in a very tight system at Notre Dame, so the habits away from the puck are really ingrained in him. Now he’s looking to explore his offensive side.”

The good news for the Bruins: Bjork wants to keep improving on the offensive end and pump up the goal-scoring numbers in his third season with the Fighting Irish. If the week spent at Ristuccia Arena is any indication, Bjork should be lighting it up in Hockey East next season after being a second team All-Hockey East selection last season.

“I’m just working on trying to contribute a little more offensively, and really work on my goal-scoring and offensive abilities like that,” said Bjork, who is a bit of a legacy at Notre Dame with his father, mother, siblings and cousin NHL forward Erik Condra all having matriculated in South Bend as well. “Working on the little things in areas like goal-scoring and playing on the wall are what I’ve been focused on. The feedback from the Bruins has been really good, and really helpful.

“Sometimes they’ll check in after a game or after a weekend of games, and give really helpful feedback. Sometimes it’s even different than what my coach said, so it’s nice to get my viewpoint and sometimes they see things that my coach doesn’t notice. Stuff like that has been really helpful, and has helped me develop as a player definitely.”

Bjork said the Bruins have stressed consistency and greater focus in his game from shift-to-shift and game-to-game and that’s something he clearly took to heart in a dominant week at development camp. Given the rising number of college hockey players that are foregoing the teams that drafted them and become free agents following their senior seasons, one would expect that next season will be Bjork’s last at Notre Dame before signing with the Bruins.

The way that the 6-foot, 188-pound Bjork is improving his game each and every season after being projected a couple of years ago as a possible third-line player in the NHL, the Bruins should be looking to bring him into the Black and Gold fold sooner rather than later. 
 

Tuesday, July 26: Daley’s surprise visit with the Cup

cp_morning_skate-.jpg

Tuesday, July 26: Daley’s surprise visit with the Cup

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading, while never getting tired of the Bernie Sanders/Curb Your Enthusiasm parallels.

*PHT writer Cam Tucker has Trevor Daley making a surprise visit with the Stanley Cup and talking more about his emotional moment hoisting the Cup right after the win by the Penguins.

*Don Cherry and Ron MacLean get their just reward with a star on the Canada Walk of Fame after years of great hockey entertainment.

*Adam Larsson has heard the fan reaction in Edmonton after being traded for Taylor Hall, and he’s downplaying it all.

*A lack of a deal for RFA defenseman Jacob Trouba with the Winnipeg Jets doesn’t mean Trouba trouble quite yet. But it sure doesn’t sound like things are all ducky in Winnipeg.

*FOH (Friend of Haggs) Dan Rosen sits down with Arizona Coyotes GM John Chayka to answer five questions about his new gig, and some big changes for the Desert Dogs.

*Scott Powers has Jimmy Vesey’s camp confirming that the Chicago Blackhawks will be one of the teams on Vesey’s “short list” when he speaks with teams on Aug. 15. Watch out for Stan Bowman and the Blackhawks, who have been out to see Vesey a couple of times in Foxboro over the last month.

*The Washington Capitals continue to build depth among their forward group, and have constructed a strong roster for next season.

*For something completely different: if you love baseball or have ever enjoyed some of the truly great Dan Shaughnessy columns over the years, you will enjoy this column from Shaughnessy about his Hall of Fame induction. Congrats to Dan, a true titan in our industry.