Bruins

Haggerty: B's look to capitalize on perfect trip

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Haggerty: B's look to capitalize on perfect trip

By Joe Haggerty
CSNNE.com

OTTAWA Any time the current crop ofBruins draw comparisons to their 1972 Stanley Cup-winning edition, it means things are going pretty swimmingly.

That about sums it up for the Black and Gold after finishing a perfect 6-0-0 on a just-completed road swing divided into three parts a two-game winner of a stretch against Eastern Conference cellar-dwellers in the Islanders and Senators, a more impressive three-game romp through Western Canada that included galvanizing victories over the Calgary Flames and Vancouver Canucks, and the finale, a 1-0 win Tuesday in Ottawa.

It means a lot, said Tuukka Rask, who bookended twin victories at the beginning and ending of the six-game road stretch. It all started off on Long Island against the Islanders and then the trades came in. We really came together as a team during the trip, and bonded together during that time in Vancouver. "Its a big thing.

Theres little doubt some of the answers have come from theoutside help. Rich Peverley, Chris Kelly and Tomas Kaberle have helped tremendously on both ends of the ice, and the Bs power play has been worlds better despiteenjoyingjust a 1-for-13 success ratiosince Kaberle came on board.

But the answers have come just as much from withinled byscoring sources that had gone dry duringthe middle months. Those goal-scoring sourcesare again flourishing. Nathan Horton scored the game-winner in Tuesdays victory, and did it the old fashioned way: the right wing crashed the net after shots by Adam McQuaid and Brad Marchand, and forced a second-effort goal past Ottawa goaltender Craig Anderson.That's the fourth goal for Horton in the last five games, and his sixth point (4 goals, 2 assists) in the last six games. David Krejci, Milan Lucic and Michael Ryder have all enjoyed some offensive success as of late, and embody one of the deepest groups of forwards still intact in the Eastern Conference.

The key that set Boston free in Hortons eyes: a move away from individual focus, and back towards unselfish, detail-orientedtogetherness that grinds opponents down.
The exhausted B's did just that against the Senators after appearing to have little energy through the first two periods. But like all good teams, the Bruins found a way to grit it out.

Its working together; back-checking, said Horton. Doing all the little things. Nobody is caring about goals or assists . . . or anything individual. We care about winning, and thats about it.

The six-game road winning streak was certainly a big thing to Zdeno Chara, who has helped craft this Bruins team into a hard-charging, complete hockey club hell-bent on finishing as high as possible in the Eastern Conference standings.

There were a handful of 1972 clubrecords matched or broken when the Bruins put up 116 points during the 2008-09 season and romped all the way to the Eastern Conference title witha team armed tosimply overwhelm opponents with offense and physicality. Those featsdidnt faze Chara then, and certainly dont now with an older, wiser, more experienced and talented group of Bruins earning their stripes late in the regular season.

Its more about a Bs team with 19 games to go in an Eastern Conference race that's wide open, as so many perennial favorites struggle withinjuries and inconsistency. The Bs outscored their opponents 20-9 over the six-game road winning streak, rank fifth in the NHL with 3.1 goals per game, rank second in the NHL with 2.3 goals allowed per game, and are the leagues best team at the most important juncture in a hockey game: the third period.

Whether judging by the numbers or simply evaluatingwiththe naked eye, the Bruins are a good hockey club with few weaknesses. They have very little true star power, but they're a team build on depth and chemistry.

That ability to score and defend coupled with their elite goaltending the Bruins also lead the NHL with nine shutouts this season makes them a tough out for any otherteam in a seven-game series. That became obvious when the new-look Bruins went on the road and set the Western teams straight.Weve always believed in those guys and its just a matter of putting it together, said coach Claude Julien. Weve talked about consistency and when you win six in a row, to me thats consistency. Weve had some real big challenges along the way but what we wanted to do was win this game and set ourselves up for a real good match against Tampa Bay Thursday at home and we got that now.

The Penguins are beset by injuries, and wont be getting Evgeni Malkin or Sidney Crosby back anytime soon. The Capitals are pinning their playoff hopes on Bruins castoffs like Dennis Wideman and Marco Sturm, and Boston fans know exactly how that tune goes.

The Tampa Bay Lightning have little big-timeplayoff experience aside from Vinny Lecavalier and Marty St. Louis, and are a year or two away from doing real postseason damage.

The Flyers are loaded in the back and up front, but theyre relying on young, unproven goaltending the same recipe thats been Phillys undoing so many times in the recent past.

Chara appreciates his teams mention in the same breath with Bobby Orr, Gerry Cheevers, Derek Sanderson and so many other legendary members of the 1972 champions. But their road accomplishment across three time zones is about much more than hockey history. It's aboutan undefeated road trip through some challenging NHL outposts is a clarion call to the rest of the league that this Bruins' editionis ready to carve out their own identity inthe next three months.

I don't think we have any of those kinds of names or players," Chara said. "Those are such legends that it's hard to really be compared to those guys. We're really trying to focus on playing well and playing our game and playing for each other, and win as many games as possible and have good feelings after the games, no regrets.

The Bruins had few regrets during an extremely successful six-game road trip, and there doesnt appear to be many difficultiesin their future if they can simply maintain the mojo captured somewhere between Long Island and Vancouver. Things are starting to appear special for these Bruins, and they'ddo best not to misplace it.

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

Backes hoping return from diverticulitis is 'on the upswing'

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Backes hoping return from diverticulitis is 'on the upswing'

BRIGHTON, Mass – While there will clearly need to be sign-offs from the Bruins medical staff before becoming a possibility, 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 B’s head 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.