Backes finally looking like the guy the B's spent big bucks for


Backes finally looking like the guy the B's spent big bucks for

It took a season-and-a-half to get there, but David Backes is finally playing exactly like the productive, hard-nosed forward they were looking for when they signed him to a much-discussed five-year, $30 million contract a couple of summers ago. 


The 33-year-old is comfortable in Boston, healthy after getting 10 inches of his colon removed due to diverticulitis in early November and has found a home playing right wing with Danton Heinen and Riley Nash on a multi-faceted, dangerous third line that’s provided key two-way support to Boston’s forward group. Backes has seven goals and 15 points in 20 games with the bulk of the offense coming after he returned a month ahead of schedule from the diverticulitis surgery, and he was named last week’s No. 3 Star in the NHL with three goals and six points in three games while his line stepped up with Boston’s best offensive players suddenly going quiet.

Backes has been finishing plays all around the net and playing the physical role that the Bruins brought him in for, and most importantly he’s brought balance up front where the B’s have other players aside from Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak doing some offensive damage. Clearly it needs to stay consistent for Backes over the course of the regular season’s remaining schedule, but it’s been reassuring to see him play like the captain and All-Star performer he was in St. Louis.

“You concentrate on the process, and the results will end up being there,” said Backes, who also added that he’s still about five pounds lighter than last season in something that’s clearly led to improved skating mobility on the ice. “What’s been the M.O. for the line that I’ve been on and on the power play, it’s been to do the right things all the time and eventually pucks are going to find you. Then when you get your opportunities, you’ve got to capitalize on them. It’s all pointing to good directions, but it’s also a credit to all the guys that I’m on the ice with. 

“I think the touch has maybe found me around the net, and [when it comes to] making plays. When it’s a high volume it’s going to work out for you in the long run. Being productive is great, but being productive and winning games, especially against good teams, is a great feeling to have. Even the guys that aren’t piling up points right now are being very productive members of our team. Blocking shots, taking hits and killing penalties might not make headline news from you guys, but it means the difference between winning and losing games.”

The numbers don’t even take into account the leadership and big personality aspects of Backes adding to the Bruins dressing room, where his Alpha Male personality brings a little something different to a dressing room that had grown quiet before his addition. It’s also reflected in Backes looking to take a personal honor for himself, and instead turning it into a tribute to the dirty work being done by some of his unheralded B’s teammates. 

Backes wasn’t going to completely replace the personality lost when Mark Recchi, Andrew Ference, Shawn Thornton, Johnny Boychuk and Chris Kelly departed over the course of a five-year span. His outgoing personality was a needed addition to the mix and now what Backes is doing on the ice is matching what he’s doing off it. 

“I think David missed some time, so he’s hungry. They have just gelled [as a line]. They’re all good responsible players and they each have a level offensive skill to complement each other. The puck is finding [Backes] so good for him,” said Bruce Cassidy. “Now it’s not finding one of our other lines, so this is good timing for us. I think that’s what happens over the course of the year, but [Backes] has always been a consistent scorer. Good for him for getting to the dirty areas, and seeing the puck finding him there.”

It’s in these first few years where the Bruins need to get vintage seasons out of Backes with the knowledge there may some slippage in his game as he ages over the course of a long five-year deal signed when he was 32 years old. It’s finally happening for both Backes and the Bruins, and if it keeps up it’s going to make the Black and Gold all the more dangerous and difficult to stop over the second half and into the playoffs. 

Backes has turned into exactly the guy the Bruins were signing up for as a big ticket free agent acquisition, and it’s part of the roster blend that’s pushing Boston up, up and up in the standings overt the last two months. 


Now that they're officially in, Bruins need to get healthy

Now that they're officially in, Bruins need to get healthy

Here’s what we learned from the Bruins' 2-1 overtime loss to the St. Louis Blues on Wednesday night at the Scottrade Center:

1) This team is now bona-fide playoff material. 

We knew this was coming for months after the Black and Gold went on an epic three-month hot streak that catapulted them to second place in the Atlantic Division and within a couple of wins of catching the Tampa Bay Lightning. Now that the Bruins have hit the 100-point mark and clinched the playoffs with the overtime point they got Wednesday, it’s now going to be about positioning for the postseason. That means giving all their injured players ample time to heal and be as close to 100 percent as possible and perhaps even eventually giving up on catching the Lighting for the No. 1 overall seed if it means sacrificing anything for full readiness in the postseason. But that’s a story for the first few weeks of April. On this Thursday, let’s just appreciate a Bruins team that’s clinched a playoff berth weeks ahead of time and is considered one of the odds-on favorites to go on a run this spring. Whether it’s fighting through the adversity of  injuries, getting major contributions from perhaps the best rookie class in the history of the Black and Gold or showing the heart of a champion in many, many memorable comeback wins, the Bruins have shown an “aura of greatness” this season. Not the greatness that comes along with being a longstanding dynasty, but the greatness that comes along with the promise they hold for doing great things in the Stanley Cup playoffs. This Bruins team is worth your time and interest and could very well produce the best sports experience for a Boston fan this spring. All of those bode very well for where the Bruins are headed.

2) How about that Ryan Donato? 

Two goals in two games is pretty darned good for the 21-year-old and he once again showed his nose for the net and his excellent shot while burying a puck on edge in the slot area thanks to a bad decision Alex Pietrangelo. All that being said, Donato was very quiet after that point in a heavy, physical game and didn’t do much after Dmitri Jaskin blasted him into the side boards in the second period. Clearly, Donato is courageous for a young guy and has the willingness to go to the scoring areas, but it will be instructive to see how he responds to the heavy, hard-hitting treatment he’s going to get in the NHL. As he scores and gets notoriety, there is going to be more punishment and hard hits thrown his way and it’s going to be up to him to adjust and continue to be as effective. Donato will get that chance, but he now knows it’s not going to be as easy as it looked on that first night at the Garden.

3) The Bruins could use some good health soon.

With Zdeno Chara, Charlie McAvoy, David Backes and Rick Nash among others missing from the lineup, the Bruins become a much smaller, weaker team that’s increasingly easy to pick on. That’s exactly what the Blues did after falling behind early. There were heavy St. Louis hits thrown all over the ice, including the culmination when Brayden Schenn drilled David Krejci in the corner of the rink. The Bruins never really responded to any of it and instead just kept taking hits and eventually got totally worn down in the third period and overtime when they were just hanging on for their playoff point. Certainly, they can survive in games here or there playing that way, but more Bruins are going to get hurt if opponents are allowed to simply tee off on them as they did on Wednesday night. That won’t be good for anybody associated with the Black and Gold.


*Anton Khudobin was blaming himself for the two goals allowed after the game was over, but the truth is that the Bruins wouldn’t have even got their playoff-clinching point if Khudobin hadn’t stopped a Dmitri Jaskin shot with his goalie mask in the closing seconds. Khudobin was the losing goalie, but he made the big save when the Bruins needed him on Thursday night.

*Donato scored the only goal of the night for the Bruins on a loose puck in the slot that was on edge. He now has two goals and
four points in his first two NHL games. Donato was pretty quiet after that, but how much can you really expect out of the 21-year-old at this point?

*All of the St. Louis offense was supplied by Jaden Schwartz, who beat the Bruins with a wrist shot from the top of the face-off circle in the third period and then went on a breathtaking one-man rush in OT for the game-winner. Schwartz stepped up with Vladimir Tarasenko down and injured right now.


*One shot on net for David Pastrnak in 20-plus minutes. He did alter the path of the Alex Pietrangelo clearing attempt that turned into Ryan Donato’s goal, but was otherwise quiet in a very physical game.

*Nick Holden played almost 25 minutes of ice time and blocked four shots in the absence of Boston’s top three defensemen and was, by and
large, pretty good throughout the game. But he did back off and give Schwartz way too much room to work with on the tying goal. It was also a tough line change as well, but somebody needs to step up and slow down the Blues there.

*Danton Heinen was called for slashing in the second period on a play that was literally a one-handed tap with the stick on a completely
inconsequential play. The NHL really needs to take a chill pill with these slashing calls. That one was bogus.



No supplemental discipline for Schenn on Krejci hit

USA TODAY Sports photo

No supplemental discipline for Schenn on Krejci hit

UPDATE: 1:10 P.M.: The NHL Department of Player Safety ruled that no 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?