Bruins

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

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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. 

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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. 

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No hesitation from Chara in scoring after scary incident in Montreal

No hesitation from Chara in scoring after scary incident in Montreal

BOSTON – Less than 48 hours after one of his legendarily hard slap shots put a Montreal Canadiens forward in the hospital after striking him in the head, Zdeno Chara didn’t hesitate when given the chance to wind up and blast away on Monday afternoon.

It was the 40-year-old Chara that rocketed a slapper past Kari Lehtonen at the end of the second period, and in doing so energized the Bruins while getting them on the scoreboard. The Chara goal helped earn the Black and Gold a point in overtime before eventually falling to the Dallas Stars by a 3-2 score at TD Garden on Monday afternoon.

The Bruins captain had been texting with the felled Montreal winger on Monday, and was fully aware that Phillip Danault was out of the hospital and doing well aside from understandable concussion symptoms after a puck to the head. Perhaps that eased Chara’s mind just a little when it came time to lean into another wind-up slapper on Monday, but it was also certainly aided by the lack of brave bodies willing to front one of his heavy, hard point blasts.

“I obviously spoke to Phillip a number of times. I talked to him right after the game and wanted to make sure he was okay, and he texted me back that he’s doing fine. He’s been released [from the hospital] and that’s very positive, good news,” said Chara. “It’s obviously very unfortunate that it’s something that happens quite often, but it’s something you never want to see with somebody getting hit and hurt. I’m very happy he’s going to recover fully and hopefully he’s back on the ice and playing hockey [soon] like we all do.”

Was there any hesitation to Chara winding up and stepping into a 100-mph slap shot so quickly after the ugly incident in Montreal?

“It’s something that doesn’t happen very often where you have that clean [shooting] path to the net where you can settle the puck, take a look and take a full slapper,” said Chara. “Usually teams play so well structurally that there’s already somebody fronting it, and you’ve got to get it through him with bodies in front. It does happen, but it’s nice that you have that time to put everything on it.”

That’s exactly what the 6-foot-9 defenseman did in sparking the Bruins to come back from a 2-0 deficit and push for the overtime point while extending their point streak to a season-best 13 games and counting.

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Overtime heroics a reminder of what Bruins gave up in Seguin

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Overtime heroics a reminder of what Bruins gave up in Seguin

BOSTON – The Tyler Seguin trade from the Bruins is pretty much ancient history at this point.

It was almost five years ago, all of the good-but-not-great players Boston received in the deal from Dallas are long gone. The Bruins general manager that engineered the big trade is now dealing with totally different brush fires while running a star-crossed Edmonton Oilers group.

But the one Stars visit per season to Boston usually serves as a reminder of what the B’s dealt away in the Fourth of July trade, and for perhaps the first time ever Seguin looked like a legit, all-around No. 1 center in the Stars 3-2 overtime win over the B’s at TD Garden. Seguin made the highlight reel with an overtime game-winner after dangling through the entire Bruins group on the ice, and watching bemusement as Bruins kept diving at him trying to stop him.

The gassed trio of Ryan Spooner, David Pastrnak and Matt Grzelcyk were on the ice hemmed into the D-zone for a long time, and simply couldn’t get the puck away from the Stars once a delayed penalty was called on Grzelcyk.

“I felt like everyone was just sliding at me, and the whole time I wanted to pass, so I was just kind of looking for the right play and just kept holding it,” said Seguin, who is on pace for 39 goals and 75 points this season with the Stars. “I just kind of shot it and luckily it went in.”

It was more than luck as Anton Khudobin had already dropped into a crazed double-pad stacked save attempt while Seguin was still holding patiently onto the puck.

“That’s really tough, to be honest. He has the puck there, and all the way, all the way, going, going, going, going and I mean, guys were laying down and trying to block the shot,” said Khudobin. “He had a lot of patience and I think it went between my legs or something like that and it’s just tough. Good goal by him.'

“Nothing is impossible. You know, [Seguin] is a good player and he scored a pretty good goal. But at the same time I can stop that. But I didn’t this time and overtime is not really easy because it’s 3-on-3.”

But all the overtime heroics aside, Seguin was solid throughout the game. It was almost enough to make Bruins fans go through the entire gamut of emotions again at one of a number of trades where the organization cut bait on a talented player at a very young juncture of their career.

“I think he’s through testing. I think he has made himself to be a very good player, and he’s accountable in every situation. He’s really matured. I think he’s a guy that we don’t even worry about anymore,” said Dallas head coach Ken Hitchcock. “Everyone talked about, ‘Can you make him a one?’ Well, quite frankly, he’s a [No. 1 center], and he’s playing like a one. He’s played six games in a row like this, and this is what you want in a number one center. He’s doing the job.

“He’s killing penalties, he’s out there taking key face-offs, he’s quarterbacking the power play, and he’s playing against the other team’s best player. To me, that’s what a [No. 1 center] does, and that’s exactly what he’s doing.”

Mostly matched up against the Perfection Line that he used to be a part of, Seguin managed a 12-for-21 performance in the face-off circle while holding Bergeron, Marchand and Pastrnak off the board offensively. Even better for Seguin and Dallas, he was on the ice for the second Stars goal against the Bergeron trio for only the second even strength goal they’ve given up all season.

Seguin killed penalties, he finished with four shot attempts, had a couple of takeaways and played the kind of mature, 200-foot game that most wondered if he’d ever be capable of in his NHL career.

So credit where it’s due for Seguin showing all of that while clearly still in a headspace where coming to Boston is special for him.

“It’s special and it’s weird playing here still. You know, I enjoy the anthem, and looking up and seeing the banner for the team that I was a part of. It’s always going to be special, you know, playing here and having old teammates on the team,” said Seguin. “I’ve been thinking a lot more of defense, a lot more of face-offs, and a lot more of, you know, the little things. I’ve been judging my performances based on those things more than goals and assists. That’s been the biggest change for me, trying to put the work in, and [against the Bruins] it worked out for me.”

The Bruins have long since chalked up dealing a horse (Seguin) for ponies (Loui Eriksson, Reilly Smith, Matt Fraser and Joe Morrow) as a big fat loss considering it never got them any closer to another Stanley Cup, and it didn’t give them any players still of use to the organization less than five years later.

But Monday afternoon’s overtime loss to Seguin and the Stars was a different kind of frustrating while watching a more mature, seemingly changed Seguin that would have fit in very nicely with the direction that the Bruins are headed these days.

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