BOSTON – David Backes missed the last five games and roughly 10 days of practice following an elbow procedure to remove irritated bursa sacs, so there was expected to be some rust Saturday night against the Rangers.
It wasn’t a big surprise the 32-year-old forward got off to a slow start against the Rangers in a 5-2 loss to the Blueshirts at TD Garden, and that things will just keep getting better for Backes as he gets back up to full speed. That didn’t exactly soften the blow that his forward line with David Krejci and Ryan Spooner didn’t have a great night at both ends of the ice, and still look like they’re forging chemistry together as new linemates.
RANGERS 5, BRUINS 2:
Backes admitted he could also be better, and that was plainly obvious as he labored slightly to keep up with an ultra-quick pace from B’s and Rangers players that have become well-oiled puck moving machines in the last couple of weeks.
“I felt maybe a half-step slow, just the pace of the game, and being out of it and not being able to really move for seven or eight days, trying to knock a little of the rust off. But when I was in the battles, I felt good, I felt strong, and I just need to get up to pace again,” said Backes, who has two goals and four points in six games along with a plus-3 rating for the year. “Maybe half a game or a period is excusable, but we need to be better, I think, as a line, and our special teams were an Achilles heel tonight. We were minus-three on special teams, and you lose by three goals. I don’t think that’s much of a coincidence.”
Backes finished without a shot on net, but was nearly part of a score when Adam McQuaid fired a shot on net in the third period that popped up and over Antti Raanta. It didn’t end up getting past the Rangers backup goalie, and Backes didn’t get on the board while going minus-2 with five registered hits in 17:05 of ice time while going a perfect 3-for-3 for the face-off circle.
The NHL Department of Player Safety is still debating if supplemental discipline is needed for the Blues' Brayden Schenn for the violent hit he delivered to the Bruins' David Krejci in the B's 2-1 overtime loss in St. Louis on Wednesday night.
In the second period, Schenn clobbered David Krejci in the corner with a punishing hit to the head as the B’s playmaking center was facing him immediately after releasing the puck. Schenn was whistled for a two-minute minor for charging at the time of the collision, but luckily Krejci was able to remain in the game and played 15:54 of ice time in the loss.
Upon further review, it was very clearly a big, heavy hit delivered to Krejci’s head, but there were plenty of mitigating factors. Krejci had his head down until the last second while looking down at the puck on his stick and was hunched over as Schenn moved in to deliver a check on a player eligible to be hit. Schenn’s skates left the ice to finish the hit after impact, which made the collision look even worse to the casual observer, but that isn’t considered launching into a hit by the NHL’s standards.
Adding to the equation is that Schenn has been suspended twice by the NHL before, three games in 2016 for a charging hit on TJ Oshie and one game back in 2013.
Clearly, it’s a difficult call for the league as they try to deter hits to the head and reduce the number of concussions. Still, this would appear to be another situation where, as the league says, a player “assumed a posture that made head contact on an otherwise full body check unavoidable." It’s absolutely similar to the Patrick Hornqvist/Charlie McAvoy hit from a few weeks ago that never ended up with any supplemental discipline for the Penguins hard-hitter despite plenty of hue and cry from the Bruins fans.
So what does everybody else think about this hit, and whether or not Schenn should be facing discipline from the NHL as a result of it?
GOLD STAR: Jaden Schwartz stepped up and won the game for the Blues with a couple of really good plays in the third period and overtime. He took advantage of a line change and a lax Bruins defense to snap a shot past Anton Khudobin from the face-off circle in the third period that tied up the game, and then went on a one-man rush in overtime before blasting a puck past Khudobin for the game-winner on a beautiful individual play. Schwartz finished with the two goals that represented all of the St. Louis offense, four shots on net, a hit and a takeaway in 20:02 of ice time while logging a plus-2 rating as well. The Blues clearly needed somebody to step up to the plate with Vladimir Tarasenko and the Schwartz was with St. Louis on Wednesday night.
BLACK EYE: The Bruins were quite literally black and blue after a physical, punishing game with the St. Louis Blues. A number of players took heavy hits against a St. Louis team that felt free to throw hits and take runs with Zdeno Chara and David Backes out of Boston’s lineup among other players, and that culminated with Brayden Schenn drilling David Krejci in the second period. It was a hit that earned Schenn a two minute penalty for charging midway through the period, but shouldn’t result in anything more for the Blues forward. The hit wasn’t late, his skates were on the ice when he made contact, and Krejci was crouched down when Schenn made impact on a heavy check with his elbows tucked in, so it looked like a relatively clean hit that isn’t going to be on the radar of the NHL’s Player Safety Department. That physicality for the Blues really seemed to slow down the Bruins a little bit as things went on over the 60 plus minutes of the overtime game.
TURNING POINT: The Bruins actually only got outshot by a 15-13 margin in the second period, third period and overtime, but it was clear that they slowed down in terms of attacking and creating chances as things moved on in the game. By the latter half of the game the Bruins were simply trying to hang on to their one-goal lead, and then after that simply trying to hang in there for the point earned by getting to overtime. They managed to do it, but it was a different wave of momentum in the game once the Blues tied things up in the third period on Schwartz’s first goal. After that the Bruins were scrambling and hanging on, and did just enough to hang in there for a single overtime point for the second game in a row.
HONORABLE MENTION: Ryan Donato made it two goals in two games when he stepped into a loose puck created by an Alex Pietrangelo turnover that bounced off referee Brad Watson after he attempted to throw a puck up the middle of the ice. Donato pounced on the fortuitous bounce and rocked a puck on edge past Jake Allen for the game’s first goal and another affirmation that the 21-year-old can both shoot and score. Donato was pretty quiet after that goal, of course, with a couple of shots on net, but it seemed like a big, heavy hit on him by Dmitri Jaskin in the second period kind of quieted the youngster down a little bit. Still, you’ve got to love the production from a player just getting his feet wet at the NHL level.
BY THE NUMBERS: 100 – The number of points for the Bruins after falling in overtime by a 2-1 score to the Blues, and in getting to the century mark the B’s clinched a playoff spot for the second season in a row.
QUOTE TO NOTE: “It’s step one. Going into the season we wanted to make the playoffs and be a Stanley Cup contender. Right now we got in and we’re going to be a contender, right? Now it’s about being in the best position possible going forward.” –Bruce Cassidy, to reporters in St. Louis about clinching the playoff spot on Wednesday night.