BOSTON (CBS) — School was in session for Bruins forward Anton Blidh after the formal practice session ended at Warrior Ice Arena on Friday.
Blidh didn’t get extra tutoring on forechecking, passing or shooting. And his teacher wasn’t a coach. Blidh and defenseman Kevan Miller did some mock fighting so that the veteran blueliner could show the rookie some of the finer points of pugilism.
If Blidh’s career continues on its current path, the Swede is going to need all the help protecting himself that he can get.
“Of course I need to stand up for myself,” Blidh said.
Blidh has proven to be a physical agitator during his 16 games with the Bruins. His latest run-in came in the 2-1 loss at Nashville on Thursday, as Blidh finished his check on Predators defenseman Roman Josi and earned a five-minute major penalty. It was Blidh’s first penalty of the season and Josi didn’t return to the game. Blidh said that Josi’s stick actually hit Josi in the face, not Blidh, and that might be why there was no talk of supplementary discipline from the NHL on Friday.
No one went after Blidh immediately after the hit. But later in the game the Bruins got a penalty when Ryan Johansen went after Blidh. It seems at least once a game a player from the other team wants to get a piece of Blidh, and it often results in a penalty. Blidh goaded Los Angeles defenseman Drew Doughty into a minor penalty in a 1-0 Boston win on Dec. 18. Blidh leads the Bruins with 1.68 minor penalties drawn per 60 minutes.
Often, it’s a skilled player that Blidh gets sent to the box.
“If the good guys want to focus on me, that’s good. I’ll take it every day,” said Blidh, who has one goal and one assist.
But playing near the line between clean and dirty, and sometimes crossing it, will eventually force Blidh into a showdown with a bigger, tougher player. Then it will be time to drop the gloves and that’s where the mini-class with Miller will come in handy. Miller was showing Blidh how to grab a player by the collar at the outset of a bout and how to knock off a player’s grip when trying to move.
“It’s just if that situation every arrived and he had to drop the gloves, we want to make sure he knows what he’s doing or has some kind of idea so he doesn’t get himself hurt,” Miller said.
Blidh said that in the Swedish league, dropping the gloves is an automatic suspension. He also said that in the AHL he got into one fight, but hockeyfights.com credits him with two. There’s video from one of the fights, and it shows him scoring a takedown after making a comeback from an early deficit. That’s a sign that he has the tenacity even if he doesn’t have the technique.
Blidh plans on improving as a fighter.
“That was the first lesson. So hopefully he can [teach] me more,” Blidh said.
It’ll be wise for Blidh to get familiar with using his fists. The way he plays, he’s going to continue to tick off opponents. And there’s no reason for Miller or Adam McQuaid or anyone to risk injury or missing playing time coming to the defense of a fourth liner. If Blidh’s going to do the crime he has to be ready to fight at the time (or something like that).
Fighting may be disappearing from the NHL but it’s not gone yet. If Blidh learns well, he won’t have to answer the bell too many times because players will think twice about dropping the gloves with him and then he’ll be even more effective as a fourth-line pest.