Backes feels 'mixed emotions' facing Blues for first time

Backes feels 'mixed emotions' facing Blues for first time

BRIGHTON, Mass -- David Backes has been as advertised for the Bruins after signing a five year deal over the summer to leave his elevated position as team captain with the St. Louis Blues. The 32-year-old has missed a bit of time already this season with an elbow procedure, but has brought the physicality, intensity, versatility and leadership to the B’s, and done so while starting to finish on the promise offensively as a top-6 forward. 

So it’s a good thing he’s fully found his game as he readies to face his former team, the Blues, for the first time at TD Garden on Tuesday night for what’s sure to be an emotional match against the only other NHL team he’s ever known. Backes joked that he was just hoping to shoot pucks at the correct goalie given the kind of hockey identity crisis that might go down once the puck is dropped, but he didn’t hide the kind of mixed emotions he’ll be fighting against his former hockey family. 

“I’ve got a lot of mixed emotions. You relish the opportunity to play your old team, but at the same time it’s unfamiliar territory. I’m going to see a lot of familiar faces out there. I met a couple of them for dinner last night,” said Backes, who has three goals and seven points along with a plus-9 rating in 13 games for the Bruins this season. “I just want to stay in the moment and do whatever I can to help our team win. Afterwards we can shake hands, give each other hugs and wish each other the best moving forward. 

“There are a lot of good people over there and a lot of good friends, but we’re wearing different jerseys tonight. I think they’re well aware, and I’m well aware there are going to be no punches pulled. There are two points on the line for two teams that are playing pretty well right now, and it’s going to be a battle of wills to see who gets the two points out of the game.”

It will be interesting to see just how physical that the 6-foot-3, 221-pound Backes, Boston’s leader with 42 registered hits this season despite having missed five games, gets with his former Blues cohorts, and if he goes a little further on the edge than usual given the high level of emotion sure to felt during the on-ice reunion. That doesn’t even mention any addition hard feelings Backes might have toward the Blues organization for essentially cutting him loose after ten plus years spilling blood, sweat and tears for the St. Louis organization. 

Backes clearly seems happy in Boston, but he might just have a thing or two to show the Blues as their former leader suiting up against them for the very first time in his career. 

Banged up B's 'look forward to the challenge' vs Tampa team they're chasing

USA TODAY Sports Photo

Banged up B's 'look forward to the challenge' vs Tampa team they're chasing

TAMPA BAY – It certainly might not be the shape they envisioned themselves being in when these late season games arrived against the President’s Trophy favorites in Tampa Bay, but the Bruins are bracing for a showdown with the high-powered Lightning either way. 

The Bruins stand just four points behind the Bolts with one game in hand, and mathematically they absolutely have a shot of catching and surpassing the Lightning for the NHL’s top spot with three games remaining against them in the season’s final month. But realistically it’s got to be considered a long shot at this point with Zdeno Chara, Patrice Bergeron, Charlie McAvoy and Jake DeBrusk all out for Saturday night’s meeting with Tampa, and Bergeron and McAvoy expected to potentially miss all three of their divisional scraps. 

Coming off a 3-0 shutout loss at the hands of the Florida Panthers and at the end of a week-long, four-game road trip, the Bruins know they’re going to need to tighten things up against a Lightning team they can’t match firepower with in their weakened state. 

“I think we’ve done a pretty good job of just playing the game in front of us, and not getting too far ahead, too high or too low. We’ve got the best team in the National Hockey League, arguably, at home and rested [in front of us],” said Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy. “We look forward to the challenge. They’re a high-scoring team, so we talked about that with our goaltenders and our ‘D’ today. We better be ‘on’ because they’ll be coming. Our forwards are going to have to help out in that area and make sure we’re reloading well, and keep getting pucks at the net. 

“We didn’t finish [against Florida] but it wasn’t because of lack of effort or lack of pucks at the net. That part of our game is trending pretty well offensively. I think you’re going to have score to a certain extent against this team because you’re not going to shut them down completely. That’s our game plan for whoever is going to be in the lineup. They’ve got to be ready for it because that’s how it works, and that’s how it’s worked all year long for us. We need the guys in there to do their part and do it well.”

Certainly the Bruins could still do some offensive damage with Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak still intact on their top line, and David Krejci and Rick Nash also still developing their chemistry on the second line. Torey Krug also came through feeling healthy at practice on Friday after soaking up 26 plus minutes of ice time in the loss to Florida, so they’ll also have some puck-moving and offensive pop on the back end as well.

But it may come down to the Chara-less defense and Tuukka Rask to step up and go into shutdown mode against the Lightning if they’re looking to really push up on the Lightning, and make this a horse race for the Atlantic Division down the stretch. Not to mention, it would be a psychological swing for both teams if the Bruins could take down a rested, relatively healthy Tampa Bay hockey club with their undermanned, injury-ravaged bunch. 

That in and of itself should be plenty of motivation for a Bruins team that’s got their sights and set on bigger and better things this spring with the Lightning expected to be one of the big obstacles standing in their way.


Morning Skate: Tavares or Seguin?

NBC Sports Boston Photo

Morning Skate: Tavares or Seguin?

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading while jacked and pumped about that Infinity War trailer. Wow. 


*Credit here for something outside the box and clear hockey satire while looking far into the NHL’s crystal ball where the new expansion team is called the Seattle Slippery Seals, and Brad Marchand is the head of the NHLPA. That is quite a twist at the end of the movie right there. 


*The Hockey Central crew debates whether they would want John Tavares or Tyler Seguin as a player to build their team around. Seguin is having a solid year (with the end of his contract coming into view), but I’m going with Tavares all day long. I think he’s more of a competitor and a reliable player along with an equitable level of talent, and that counts for quite a bit in team-building. 


*It’s good to see the PHWA decide to make public the ballots of all NHL Awards starting at the end of this season. It’s something I voted in favor of and already did annually as I think transparency is something we always ask for from those we cover, so it should never be something we shy away from. 


*The Flyers have hit the skids again after pushing themselves into playoff view. This has been such a streak team over the last couple of years. 


*Pro Hockey Talk says that the Montreal Canadiens need to take a long look into the mirror before they move on from this season. I couldn’t agree more. 


*For something completely different: I feel badly for my kids that Toys R us is liquidating as a company, and the stores will be closing. It’s getting to the point where there will be no more brick and mortar toy stores for kids to visit, and that’s something from my youth experience that they’re going to miss out on. Frankly, it’s kind of sad.