Jim Montgomery is looking forward to making introductions before the NHL All-Star Game in Sunrise, Fla., on Feb. 4. Not for himself, though.
Asked about being named coach of the Atlantic Division Wednesday, Montgomery replied: “To be honest, the opportunity for my boys to meet all the stars in the league, I think that’s going to be an incredible experience, very similar to the Winter Classic. You do certain things in your life you’re just very fortunate to be a part of, and this will be one.”
Montgomery, who has guided the Bruins to a 32-4-4 record, was talking after practice in preparation for Thursday’s game against the Seattle Kraken. Also named as All-Star coaches were Bruce Cassidy (Vegas Golden Knights/Pacific), who was with the Bruins from 2016 through last season; Rod Brind’Amour (Carolina Hurricanes/Metropolitan); and Peter DeBoer (Dallas Stars/Central).
“I’m honored to represent our team, because they’re the guys,” Montgomery said. “To me, I’m representing our group and what we’ve accomplished the first half.
“Unfortunately, we probably deserve to have six guys to be All-Stars. But the way the game’s run now, it’s not like it used to be. Not as many guys get the opportunity. So I think how they have coaches represent teams that have the highest winning percentage is a reflection of how your team has been playing in the first half.”
Bruins goalie Linus Ullmark was previously announced as one of the first 32 players to be selected. Online fan voting for the remaining 12 ends Jan. 17 and will be revealed Jan. 19.
The Bruins got off to a fast start, despite missing injured stars Brad Marchand and Charlie McAvoy, accelerating the pace this month with four successive victories — three on the road and one at Fenway Park.
“I was surprised at how quickly we picked it up the first 20 games,” Montgomery said. “The grind of the season — what I’m amazed at is their consistency and how hard we’ve been to play against.
“I don’t think we’ve been that dynamic offensively in the last 15 games, to be honest. But I think how hard we are to play against in big moments has been consistent throughout the year and I think that’s a reflection of our record.”
The Bruins have bought into Montgomery’s methods, including making line tweaks to refresh the offense.
“I haven’t felt resistance once,” Montgomery said. “I know a couple times players have said they would like to be given more opportunity, and you understand that. I think the more I do it, the more comfortable they get doing it, and that’s the biggest reason behind what I do.
“Sometimes you’re rewarding a player but also sometimes you’re stale. Sometimes I do it because I want players to see how they play with other players. So when injuries come and playoffs and situations where someone’s all of a sudden gone for half a period because he’s on concussion protocol, I know who’s played well with who. And I can easily go to those former units that have had success.”
Said Marchand, “He’s very positive. He really makes a big effort in building relationships with guys, and I think that allows guys to feel comfortable and confident in the room and practice and on the bench.
“He’s demanding at the same time, and he’s very open about that. He has high expectations for our group. He knows what we’re able to accomplish and achieve and the level we should be playing at. He does a really, really good job at bringing the best out of the guys and he does a great job at building those relationships.”
A shot for Koppanen
Center Joona Koppanen, recalled from Providence Wednesday, is expected to center the fourth line against the Kraken.
“He’s had a really good year in Providence,” Montgomery said. “We really liked his last exhibition game. And we don’t have a left-shot center now that can win draws, just because [Tomas] Nosek still is not 100 percent healthy but he can play, he can’t take draws.
“It gives us an opportunity to see, when you’re looking down the road, the opportunity for supplemental players to be able to help us in what we hope are going to be big moments down the road.”
Koppanen practiced with the Bruins Wednesday.
“I think I add win faceoffs and penalty kill for the team and play solid,” Koppanen said. “Of course, I’ve been watching almost all the games here — just awesome. It’s a privilege to come here and play for the organization.”
Frank Dell'Apa can be reached at email@example.com.