When the sweeping threat brought upon by COVID-19 shuttered the 2019-20 season, many of the Bruins were forced to spend the subsequent four-month layoff pondering multiple “what could have been” scenarios for a club steamrolling toward the top seed in the Eastern Conference.
For Anders Bjork, such sentiment was much more nuanced, especially on an individual basis. For some players in his position, the prevailing thought could have centered more on “what went wrong," more than anything else.
All things considered, the first 70 games of the 2019-20 season should be viewed as a resounding success for Bjork, given that his previous two campaigns were both ended prematurely due to major shoulder surgery. Upon getting recalled from Providence in October, Bjork was a regular in Boston's middle-six grouping, primarily logging minutes next to Charlie Coyle on the third line.
But, in wake of Boston's deadline deals for Ondrej Kase and Nick Ritchie — along with a prolonged slump (0 G, 1 A - 11 GP) over the final month of the regular season — Bjork found himself on the outside looking in at a regular minutes by March, serving as the B's 13th forward in four of Boston's final five games before the pause.
Those game nights spent up in the press box loomed over Bjork's psyche for months on end during the NHL's extended stoppage. But rather than let it eat away at all of the confidence he accrued this season, Bjork channeled those scratches into added motivation for reclaiming a starting spot once hockey returned.
"It was an interesting position for me at the end there because I hadn't really gotten scratched that much until right before the pause," Bjork said via Zoom on Wednesday. "I felt like I was a little nervous at the start that that was going to get to me, because my mentality right before the pause was like, 'Alright, you've got to improve and get better and really show that you're fighting for that line on spot, just in any little way you can.'
"I think from a mental standpoint, especially with the injuries that I've had since turning pro, I've learned that you can't dwell on that. That's not going to help your training and it can affect all parts of your life. ... You got to keep moving forward."
Monday represented a great first step for the B's winger, who boasts the skills and potential to put Boston's middle-six grouping over the top once games commence in Toronto.