Bruins

Haggerty: Bruins not yet satisfied

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Haggerty: Bruins not yet satisfied

By Joe Haggerty
CSNNE.com

BOSTON Its difficult to recall now on the eve of Bostons first Eastern Conference Finals appearance in 19 years, but the goals of many within the organization were crystal clear before the playoffs began.

The Bruins mantra was all about getting past the second round and delving deeper into the playoffs than the previous two seasons. With the playoff series victories came the ultimate eraser to wipe away the stain of last years collapse to the Flyers.

With two playoff round wins, there was also a tacit guarantee Claude Julien, Peter Chiarelli and the rest of the Bs organizational structure would remain stable and intact for the foreseeable future.

With all that ridingin triumphsover the Habs and Flyers, it was mission accomplished with emotion, precision and a business-like efficiency that hasnt always been there for the Black and Gold.

But there is also danger in broaching new, uncharted ground within the Stanley Cup playoffs for the Bruins.

Nirvana and the Seattle grunge scene were brand new the last time Boston stood only four wins away from a legit shot at drinking deeply out of Stanleys Cup, and theres a lethalamount of comfort and security that can arrive with that kind of team achievement.

Certainly a rapidly growing Bruins fan base while always clamoring for bigger, better and badder would be satiated with a deep journey into the conference finals this season win, lose or draw. The promise of a young Bs nucleus ready to consistently compete in the East could certainly ease the pain of the masses if Bostonfalls short of the Stanley Cup Finals.

But greed is good when its come to the NHL playoffs, and the Bruins should be getting their Gordon Gecko on as one of the final four hockey clubs. Now is not the time for settling and counting past achievements.

Its important talented youngsters like 23-year-old Milan Lucic, 24-year-old David Krejci, 19-year-old Tyler Seguin, 23-year-old Brad Marchand and 25-year-old Patrice Bergeron listen to their older teammates that prowl aroundhungrily sniffingfor the Cup.

Mark Recchi and Shawn Thornton both know what it takes to be the last hockey team standing in the playoffs, but it goes beyond them.

Even more filled with that third round hunger is a guy like Andrew Ference. The 32-year-old defenseman has enjoyed a solid NHL career with notoriety both on and off the ice, but one of his most wince-inducinghockey memories iscoming up justshort ofwinning a Cup with the Calgary Flames in 2004.

Ference didnt give a flying crap what Bostons organizational goals were for this postseason. As far as Ference is concerned, he still has a date with the Cup thats been overdue since the very-same Lightning team took down his Flames seven years ago. The ache gnaws at him greatly, and he still regularly commiserates with his former Calgary teammates about what might have been against the Bolts.

Oh, its still raw, said Ference. A lot of us still see each other in the summer. Ive got guys from Calgary calling me up now saying take it to those guys, you know? You hate the people that beat you. I think there are only two guys that were on that team that beat us, but youre in that city. Youre in that same building.

Its not one of those things where you say oh well, we were close. The only way to erase any of that is to win the whole thing.

Ference says the Cup Finals loss is one of the first things that shoots into his brain whenever he spies the Lightning logo, and it will certainly be on his mind when he suits up against Tampa for Game One.

Getting past the second roundmight have been an organizational goal, but I know there are a lot of guys in this room myself included that have absolutely zero satisfaction unless we win the whole thing, said Ference. Ive been close before. Weve talked to guys over and over about that. Its the hardest thing in this game to get that close to the Cup and then to lose.

Theres only one group that gets to be truly happy, and thats the group that ends up winning. I can see satisfaction from the city or the organization that getting to the third round is a positive thing, but Ive been there. Raising a Western Conference championship banner in Calgary didnt give me any satisfaction. It doesnt feel good and I have no problem telling that to guys over and over. And I have done that.

Instead Ference and fellow aging core Bruins veterans like Zdeno Chara and Tim Thomas have forged a group of players over the age of 30 that realize this spring might be their best, lastchance to taste hockey immortality.

Thomas went so far as to say he dreamt about winning the Cup before the season began, and Chara has been so laser focused that the complacency issue is something that hadnt even entered his mind before it was mentioned.

I havent felt that at all, said Chara. I never got that sense even after we won four straight against Philly that anybody was saying oh year, we are all set now. We were glad that we got past the second round, but we all had eyes on the third round and our next opponent.

We knew who we were facing. We approached it like we won a game. We all know that its a long road and its not just about the conference finals.

As Thomas is known for saying, the proof will be in the pudding as to whether the Bruins started feeling satisfied heading into the conference finals. But its hard to believe a 37-year-old Thomas and a 34-year-old Chara would ever let that happen to their best chance at Cup glory.

Joe Haggerty can be reached at jhaggerty@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Joe on Twitter at http:twitter.comHackswithHaggs

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.