Talking Points: Backes sets up Spooner for game-winning goal


Talking Points: Backes sets up Spooner for game-winning goal

GOLD STAR: David Backes didn’t score the game-winning goal, but he set it up with a smart pass to open space that allowed Ryan Spooner to both catch up to the puck and then fire it past Steve Mason for the overtime game-winner. Backes finished with an assist and a plus-1 rating in 17:26 of ice time, five shot attempts, two hits - including a jarring one on Jakub Voracek - and a blocked shot in his very first home game at TD Garden. Backes also managed to squeeze in a fight with Sean Couturier at the end of a long shot following the hit on Voracek, and did a good job of showing the Bruins Faithful exactly what to expect of him moving forward.

BLACK EYE: Radko Gudas seems hell-bent on getting suspended prior to the start of the regular season, and he once again courted supplemental discipline from the NHL with Saturday night’s hit on Austin Czarnik. This hit comes a few days after narrowly escaping punishment for a similarly violent hit on Jimmy Vesey. Gudas served a three-game suspension last season for a head shot on Mika Zibanejad, and was ejected from a number of games for borderline hits and going over the edge with his aggressively physical play. The feeling is this time he’s going to get hit with a suspension for the predatory hit on Czarnik. The only disappointing thing from a B’s perspective is that there wasn’t a bigger response from the B’s after Gudas leveled Czarnik behind the play, but then again it was so late that none of the B’s might have seen it.

HONORABLE MENTION: Ryan Spooner deserves some recognition for netting the game-winner, and will get it for using his speed to chase down the long lead pass from David Backes before burying it past Steve Mason. Spooner and his new "DReaD line" were solid throughout the game, and the fast-skating forward finished with three shots on net, four shot attempts, two takeaways and a blocked shot in 18:02 of ice time. Spooner, David Krejci and Backes looked pretty good together as a line, and were dangerous at points on the forecheck while forcing mistakes and generating offensive chance while also fine-tuning their chemistry. Saturday night’s success was Exhibit A as to why Spooner will be okay on the wing if he’s playing in a top-6 role with players like Krejci and Backes.

TURNING POINT: For the Bruins it was getting through the second period when the Flyers outshot them by a 10-3 margin, and controlled long stretches of the play while getting a few good chances against Tuukka Rask. The Bruins goaltender was sharp on Saturday night, and proved both quick with his glove and calm as the traffic piled up around the net as he turned back shot after shot. Once the Bruins managed to get through the second period, it was pretty equal play for the final 20 minutes and a brief foray into overtime before Ryan Spooner netted the game-winner.

BY THE NUMBERS: 7 – the number of multi-point scorers for the Bruins in the 2016 preseason that were under the age of 24 (Ryan Spooner, Austin Czarnik, David Pastrnak, Colin Miller, Seth Griffith, Jake Debrusk, Danton Heinen).

QUOTE TO NOTE: “We just have to get ourselves ready and there’s an opportunity. Tomorrow is a day off for the guys, and we have an opportunity the next three days to work on our game and continue to improve our game. My plan Monday is to work on our special teams, more of a teaching versus a high-pace practice and we’ll do a lot of teaching there. Then Tuesday and Wednesday we get prepared for the opener on Thursday. We’ll continue to work with the areas we need to, we’ll look at the video of tonight’s game and keep working on the stuff that we think needs working on.” – Claude Julien, on the plan moving forward and what’s next in order to get ready for regular season next week. 

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.