Bruins

Bruins-Canucks classic deserves a rematch

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Bruins-Canucks classic deserves a rematch

BOSTON -- So what to take from a Stanley Cup rematch between the Bruins and Canucks that more than lived up to the hype?

Above and beyond the penalties, the entire Canucks team attacking Shawn Thornton and the eventual 4-3 Bruins loss to Vancouver at the TD Garden, there was the simple, gloriously entertaining product on the ice. Whether in a one-game regular season meeting or a seven game bloodbath of a playoff series, the two teams hate each other and come from opposite ends of the hockey spectrum.

Its only the most vitriolic hockey enemies that spear their opponents in the neck with the blade of their stick as Alex Burrows did in going after Shawn Thornton. Only in true rivalry games where hatred and past history intersect do you see players like Nathan Horton and Dale Weise throwing honest to goodness punching bombs designed to bring the pain.

Lets be honest: only in such a fever pitch hockey environment would Maxim Lapierre drop the gloves under any circumstances, even if it was a glorified hugging contest with Gregory Campbell.

All that along with 30 penalty calls for 107 penalty minutes along with two game misconducts and a rarely-seen clipping penalty screamed two hockey clubs searching for any hidden edge that could lead them to victory. That they go about this victory journey with polar opposite methodology only makes it all the more interesting.

We knew it would be that kind of game, its just the way it is between these two teams, said Zdeno Chara matter-of-factly. Nothing surprising.

The Bruins play a gritty, physical game relying on depth, strength on the puck, discipline and elite goaltending to get their desired result while the Canucks parlay their speed, skill and craftiness into power play chances and offensive production. The Bruins want things to play out 5-on-5 and the Canucks will do anything flop, dive, goad or take rabbit punches to get the calls that make special teams a factor. Essentially everything is the same for both teams dating back to last years Finals, and that goes all the way out to Roberto Luongo essentially skipping out on a chance to vanquish the hockey demons haunting him in Boston.

It makes for the perfect match of hockey opposites.

I thought we were ready to play, and when we played five-on-five we were a good team. We had some power plays, but we didnt score. So we gave them four power play goals and our power play didnt score, said Claude Julien. It doesnt matter what you ask me; I dont think were going to point the finger at the other team because they didnt do anything wrong.

They played the game they way they feel they have to play it, and they scored some power play goals. They did the right things. We didnt do enough to win the hockey game. Lets be man enough to admit it and move on.

Never was that more apparent than the turning point in the game: Brad Marchand was called for a five minute major and game misconduct in the second period for upending Sami Salo as the Vancouver defenseman took a run at the Bs agitator. Salo flipped over and suffered an upper body injury on the violent play thats likely to close Marchand a few game checks, and the Canucks scored two of their four power play goals on the day during the next five minutes.

One team scored three five-on-five goals and played the physical brand of hockey while the other waited for power plays to get their game-winning goal on a Cody Hodgson strike in the final period. The ultimate irony on Hodgson: he was also the player on the Vancouver bench holding Shawn Thornton down while six of his Canucks teammates attempted to work over the Bs enforcer.

It was a profile in Canucks courage to have six players attacking one single man in a Bs uniform undoubtedly, and also a clear message that the Gingerbread Twins and their band of merry Vancouver men need the referees in order to triumph.

We were really coming back there in the second period. I thought we were going to take the game over because five on five we dominated the play, said Tim Thomas, But then they got the penalty and -- whether you agree with the calls or not -- they were a huge factor in the way the game turned out.

You could call the Canucks soft and the Bruins hardened pieces of coal, and not many would bat an eyelash. Perhaps thats even true when you slap together a goaltending matchup between Luongo the Lame otherwise known as the goalie that didnt wan to play and the ultimate competitor in Thomas.

But its not that black and white when it comes down to being on the right or wrong side of the rivalry. Cody Hodgson had himself a whale of a game for the Canucks with the game-winning goal, and managed to keep out of the almost entirely aside from his bear hug on Thornton from the Vancouver bench. Campbell stepped up to play 15 minutes with Milan Lucic and Brad Marchand out of the game, and stepped in to fight Lapierre after his gutless cannon-ball into the Thornton scrum to start the game.

There were players like Cory Schneider operating their highest levels of efficiency as he did in front of his Marblehead friends and family while stopping 36 Bruins shots in the win.

Those players draped themselves in glory in a regular season preview that could make way for another Finals showdown between the two clubs if everybody is lucky. Then there was Dale Weise nodding and waggling his gloves to fight at puck drop before back-pedaling with the hip fluidity of an NFL defensive back.

Each of the 60-minute games incidents might have made for an interesting sidelight in a humdrum regular season game on the NHL schedule, but put together they conjure up the kind of passionate enmity that makes for the best kind of playoff hockey games.

One can only hope the Bruins and Canucks find themselves in their familiar dance of contempt once the Stanley Cup Finals begin during the month of June. Hockey lovers everywhere will be the big winners in a budding rivalry that has everything it takes to become great over the next few seasons.

Backes, on mend from bout with diverticulitis, may return Thursday

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Backes, on mend from bout with diverticulitis, may return Thursday

BRIGHTON -- While there will clearly need to be sign-offs from the medical staff, the Bruins aren’t ruling out a return from David Backes for Thursday night’s game vs. the Vancouver Canucks.

Both Backes and Patrice Bergeron returned to Bruins practice with the rest of their teammates on Tuesday morning at Warrior Ice Arena, but it was only the 33-year-old Backes that practiced fully without any limitations.

“He skated a little while we were away and a full practice today, so we’ll consult with the medical staff going forward with his plan,” said coach Bruce Cassidy. “Potentially he could be an option for Thursday, and I think that should sort itself out in the next couple of days. We’re no different than anybody else, right? We’d like to have our full complement, and some of the guys we’re missing are glue guys that could really add that element to some of the kinds of games that got away from us.”

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After the team practice, Backes said that he’s been skating for the last four days and that he’s lost about 10 pounds over the last couple of weeks while adjusting to the medication and dietary treatments for diverticulitis. It wasn’t a complete shock to Backes given some of his family medical history, but he wasn’t expecting anything like that to hit him in the prime of his professional athletic career at just 34 years old.

“I have a family history of it, but this is kind of unfortunate timing and unfortunate circumstances. Hopefully I take care of this, get it behind me and not have to ever think about it again,” said Backes. “The first couple of days it was tough to just stand up straight or do anything, and then you’re on a ‘no exercise’ regimen for six or seven days. So progress . . . certainly. A return . . . we’ll see. Long-term prognosis we’ll have to discuss with the really smart guys.

“You don’t have much appetite, to deal with pain you take a painkiller and then that slows down digestion and just makes it even worse. So you’re stuck there…and it really drains your energy. I was on a liquid diet there for a few days and lost about 10 pounds. I don’t suggest that as a crash diet for anybody.”

He’s come a long way from being stuck in a Mass General hospital bed during Bruins opening night against the Nashville Predators, and Backes is hoping he’ll be all the way back to playing sooner rather than later. The Bruins right winger skated in a third line spot with Riley Nash and Tim Schaller on Tuesday, and said he’s actually even consulted a bit with former Patriots offensive lineman Matt Light, who battled his own stomach issues with Crohn’s Disease during his NFL career.

“I was like a kid in a candy store before practice. You have that carrot of Game 1 dangled in front of you and then taken away, and finally you’re back with the guys on the ice after they’ve been gone a week. Knowing what the results have been you want to interject a little energy out there while knowing that we’ve got 77 games left to establish ourselves, and find our game,” said Backes. “I felt good out there and it was nice to be back on the ice. I was smiling most of the day knowing that I’ll hopefully be playing some ice hockey in the future.

“We’re working to get that strength back and to return me to a productive member of this hockey team, which is going to be on the upswing here shortly. It’s not just due to me, but because guys are putting work in as a group. I’m trying to be as educated about it as I can, so I can be available as often as possible and as productive as possible when I am available.”

There are medical hurdles that need to be traversed by Backes before he can return, but once it becomes a matter of toughness and grit then he’ll be suiting up again for the Black and Gold, and that moment might be coming soon.

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'I definitely wasn't mad at our team,' Rask says of Vegas postgame comments

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'I definitely wasn't mad at our team,' Rask says of Vegas postgame comments

BRIGHTON, Mass – Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask was acting a bit out of character after the Sunday night loss to the Vegas Golden Knights when he said he wouldn’t be commenting on team performance outside of his own goaltending. 

Clearly, it was a tense atmosphere in the Bruins dressing room following an extremely bad road performance and it would seem very likely there’s probably been some friction in the past between Rask and positional players over his postgame candor.

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That was the backdrop for Rask keeping it laconic, and saying on Sunday night: “I just try to go out there and give us a chance to win every night. That’s what I’m focused on. I’m not going to comment anymore on team play that much. We can just talk about goaltending. That’s just the way it is. Sorry.”

It would seem that some fans and Bruins observers took that to mean Rask was pissed off at his Bruins teammates after a few breakdowns defensively, and a total non-performance at the offensive end of the ice.

Taking all that into account, Rask clarified his comments a bit after practice Tuesday at Warrior Ice Arena and said it’s all about focusing on his own performance rather than taking issues with any of his teammates.

“You lose games and you’re not happy with your performance. Somebody just told me that I guess it got spun the wrong way that it was me mad at my teammates or something. That’s definitely not the case,” said Rask, whom at 1-3-0 with a 3.30 goals-against average and .880 save percentage this season, is clearly in need of some improvement as well.

“You lose games and you definitely hold yourself accountable and you want to talk about your performance and what you need to do to get better," Rask said. "So, that’s where I was coming from. I definitely wasn’t mad at our team. I was more mad at myself, so that’s that.

“You always try to give a fair assessment about the game, but I think the biggest thing that I need to worry about, and what everybody else needs to worry about, is how they get better themselves. You start from that, so that’s where I was coming from.”

The prospect of getting Patrice Bergeron and David Backes back healthy would go a long way toward improving the Bruins play on the ice and stabilizing things defensively for Rask and the rest of the Black and Gold. That’s really what’s needed at this point to improve a situation where the B’s are 23rd in the NHL, averaging 3.6 goals allowed per game, and real, rather than figurative, fingers might start getting pointed all around if it doesn’t start looking better in short order.