From the moment Pat Burns took over as Bruins coach last spring
he believed in center Jason Allison. That was all Allison needed.
Canada's top junior player in 1993-94, Allison had struggled
with his self-esteem while failing to meet expectations during
parts of four seasons with the Capitals, who drafted him 17th in
'93. But after being traded to Boston in a six-player deal in
March 1997, Allison, 22, emerged during the recently concluded
regular season as a game-breaker. After putting up just seven
goals and 22 assists in 86 career games with Washington, he had
83 points in '97-98 to rank ninth in the league.
The trade to the Bruins gave Allison room to grow.
Allison, a 6'3", 205-pounder, is most dangerous around the net,
and he was the Bruins' top offensive threat in their
best-of-seven first-round series against the Capitals, which
Washington led 2-1 at week's end. In Boston's 4-3
double-overtime victory in Game 2, Allison had three points,
including an assist on the game-winning goal. "When we got him,
he had a huge upside," says Boston general manager Harry Sinden.
"At some point that usually comes through."
Allison, who isn't a graceful skater but is difficult to knock
off the puck, might never have developed into a star in
Washington. He was stung when the Capitals sent him to a skating
school in 1996, and he never found his stride under coach Jim
Schoenfeld. Even when Allison got into the lineuphe was
scratched frequently and often shuttled between Washington and
the Caps' affiliate in Portland, MaineSchoenfeld afforded him
little ice time and only at insignificant moments. Allison grew
disconsolate, played lethargically and by last season was
convinced his skills had atrophied.
Burns, though, saw potential in Allison. From the beginning of
this season he assigned him to center a scoring line and also
used him to kill penalties and to help Boston protect a lead
late in games. In December, Burns called Allison into his
office, closed the door and told him how good a player he could
be. After Allison had a hat trick on Jan. 8, Burns said, "This
guy can make a real impact in this league." Minutes later
Allison fairly blushed when told of Burns's praise.
These days the Capitals have a new coach (Ron Wilson) and play
in a new arena (the MCI Center), so Allison said the current
series doesn't inspire musings on his past. He prefers to talk
about the Bruins and explain why he can stand in the dressing
room during his first NHL postseason and vow that he will keep
producing. "They have confidence in me here," says Allison.
"That gives me confidence in myself."
Issue date: May 4, 1998