Backes emotional at chance to win a Cup after 'thinking about it for a long time'

Backes emotional at chance to win a Cup after 'thinking about it for a long time'

RALEIGH, N.C. – David Backes waited 13 seasons and 928 regular-season games for it, and now the 34-year-old Bruins forward is going to the Stanley Cup Final for the very first time in his distinguished, standout NHL career.

Certainly a chance at a Cup was part of the reason he signed a five-year contract with the Bruins in free agency, and the scenario coming to life left him with a massive grin on his face after the Cup Final-clinching win.

It also left him emotional in the moments that followed the victory as the reality set in that he was realizing one of his long-held NHL dreams. 

“I’ve thought about this moment for a long time, of playing for that ultimate prize you dream of when you’re a kid. Now it’s reality. It’s us against one other team, and one of us is going home with that Stanley Cup,” said Backes, who was then asked if this Cup Final could become a ‘Win one for Backes’ type of affair given that so many veteran B’s players already have Cup wins on their resume. "We’re concentrated on the Boston Bruins winning a Stanley Cup. With this group of brothers we’ve created here, we’re all in for our team, and whoever the opponent is, we’re gonna face them head on."

Backes wasn’t a big impact player in Boston’s 4-0 win in Game 4 over the Carolina Hurricanes at PNC Arena on Thursday night while clocking under 10 minutes of ice time, but he’s made a positive impact on the B’s during their playoff run. He certainly brought some physical thump to the lineup in the first round against the Maple Leafs, and the B’s won three in a row vs. the Columbus Blue Jackets after he was inserted into the lineup for the second round.

Backes scored a goal in Game 2 of the conference final against the Hurricanes, and has a solid two goals and five points in the 11 games he’s suited up for during the postseason. So the hard-nosed, hard-hitting power forward certainly played a role in the Black and Gold getting to this point in the postseason, and it’s something his teammates are appreciative of while they’d clearly love to win a Cup for him after all this time.

“It was awesome to see the passion and the emotion that he had on his face after this game,” said Brad Marchand. “He’s been such a huge part of our group. He’s such a great leader. We build so much emotion off the way that he plays, and he’s such a phenomenal guy and great teammate. He’s had an incredible career. When you see a guy that’s been around for that long and he hasn’t had an opportunity to play for a Cup, and then he finally has that opportunity? It’s a lot of emotions.

“When you play in this league for a long time, you start to appreciate and understand how hard it is to win, and how few opportunities you get to win that Cup. We have that opportunity to play for it this year and you can see how excited he was. It was awesome to see.”

The best part of all of this is still yet to be decided.

Obviously it’s a great story if Backes finally gets that Cup he’s been chasing for more than a decade, and he's going to do that against the St. Louis Blues team that he captained prior to jumping to Boston. In a Stanley Cup Final where storylines and narratives rule the day, that will be one of the best ones for the Bruins. 

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Brad Marchand's evolution to playmaker is complete: 'They're the shooters and I am the passer'

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Brad Marchand's evolution to playmaker is complete: 'They're the shooters and I am the passer'

On a Saturday afternoon when Brad Marchand was the single most impactful player on the ice, it also underscored just how much he’s added to his game in the last few seasons.

The Boston Bruins' top left winger set up a pair of goals for the B's in their 4-1 win over the Detroit Red Wings at TD Garden, and one of those scores just happened to be the game-winning shorthanded goal in a standout second period.

The game-winner was a pure hustle play by Marchand as he hounded the puck retriever on a Red Wings power play, stripped the puck away in the corner after he took away both time and space with his effort, and then fed Patrice Bergeron all alone in front for the easy score against Jonathan Bernier.

It’s the kind of shorthanded strike Marchand and Bergeron have combined for dozens of times in nearly a decade of killing penalties together. The goal gave the Bruins a 2-1 lead in the second period and effectively changed the momentum of the game against a Detroit team that had been creeping along in on the scoreboard while clearly getting outclassed on the ice.

Then it was Marchand again in the third period dangling through Detroit defenders before dropping the pass to David Pastrnak for the tap-in for his 42nd goal of the season. It was the role of playmaker that featured most prominently on Saturday for the "Nose Face Killah" while making certain the Bruins weren’t going to lose to the lowly Red Wings once again.

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He did throw in a little hate as well when he pushed Robby Fabbri all the way to the Bruins bench before tossing him through the bench door and onto the hostile B’s bench area for a few laughs and angry words in the third period.

As entertaining as that was, it’s more amazing to realize the development of Marchand as a passer and playmaker. There was a time when No. 63 wouldn’t get on Boston’s top power play unit because the Bruins coaching staff felt he was more of a 1-on-1 playmaker than an effective disher, but those days back from the Claude Julien era are long, long gone.

Instead, Marchand ranks fourth in the NHL with 50 assists this season behind just Leon Draisaitl, John Carlson and Connor McDavid, and only McDavid, Nikita Kucherov and Blake Wheeler have more than his 165 helpers since the start of a 2017-18 season when the Perfection Line of Marchand, Patrice Bergeron and Pastrnak really started skating together.

Marchand is happy to play the role of playmaker rather than goal-scorer as he’s done with four assists over the last couple of games. He’s also on pace for 32 goals this season and draws all kinds of defensive attention when he drives to the net. Those dangles through opposing defenses open up passing lines for linemates in Bergeron and Pastrnak that don’t need a lot of room to score goals, and then the goals from the top line follow closely behind.  

Add it all up and it’s a productive, successful Perfection Line formula for the Black and Gold generated by Marchand’s playmaking when all three forwards are operating at highest efficiency. It’s all changed from the time when Marchand was Boston’s biggest goal-scoring threat prior to Pastrnak going supernova as an NHL superstar in the last few seasons.  

“Before Pasta came along on our line, it was the first thing I was looking to do when I got over the blue line was to be the shooter. It worked. But with Pastrnak and Bergeron being on the line and their tendencies being similar, they’re the shooters and I am the passer, and I am fine with that,” said Marchand.

“It’s obviously worked. A lot of our plays are geared toward that. Obviously, there’s a time and place for shooting and passing, and it’s about trying to read that. But they’re both very good at putting themselves in position on almost every play to get shots off. I’m just going to give it to them and they’ll put it in the net.”

Really it comes down to watching what makes the Perfection Line so difficult to stop, and it comes down to good hockey simply finding the open man when defenses show extra attention to any of the three players.  Each of Marchand, Bergeron and Pastrnak can score goals with precision skill and flawless execution, and each of them can make offense happen with creativity, smarts and excellent hands.

It’s part of what makes them the NHL’s most dangerous forward line, but it also feels like Marchand has taken his passing and playmaking to the highest level of the last few years to cultivate that line’s greatness.

“I think it’s the whole line. What makes them so good is you can’t just say ok, we’re going to take [Marchand’s] shot away, his passing,” said Bruce Cassidy. “I think they all do it well. I think they can all score goals, they can all make plays.”

With 23 games left to go in the regular season and 50 apples already in the books, it seems automatic that Marchand is going to surpass his career-high of 64 assists set last season on his way to 100 points again this year.

As he enters another one of his patented hot streaks with two goals and seven points in seven games this month, the 31-year-old Marchand looks ready to set new career highs in both assists and points this year as his game gets better and more evolved with each passing season.

Important Bruins win against troublesome Detroit: 'We wanted to make sure we got a win today'

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Important Bruins win against troublesome Detroit: 'We wanted to make sure we got a win today'

BOSTON – With a pair of losses to the NHL’s worst team this season and less than two months remaining in the regular season, it was ultra-important for the Bruins to finally take care of business this weekend with a third chance against the Red Wings.

They did just that in fine all-around fashion with a 4-1 victory Saturday afternoon at TD Garden, where they got contributions throughout the lineup and truly dominated Detroit while outshooting them by a 41-26 margin in the victory. This time around the Bruins were a little more well-rested than they were in last Sunday’s loss to the Red Wings in Detroit, and they were able to execute better in the key situations throughout the game.

The B’s actually handed the Wings a one-goal lead after a first period they otherwise utterly dominated, and then stormed back with three goals in the second period as Charlie McAvoy, Patrice Bergeron and Charlie Coyle notched the scoreboard for the Black and Gold. They got David Pastrnak’s NHL-leading 42nd goal of the season in the third period as well, and that was more than enough to beat the woeful Red Wings and keep pace with a Tampa Bay Lightning team that won their 10th game in a row on Saturday night.

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If the opposite had happened and the Bruins had finally succumbed to the Bolts in the Atlantic Division due to another loss to the lowly Red Wings, there would have been hell to pay. Thankfully for them that didn’t happen at all and the B’s still barely hold down first place ahead of the hard-charging Lightning.

“We wanted to make sure we got a win today. We had a couple of losses to them this year [and] we wanted to make sure we took care of business in the right manner. I think everyone was involved today so it was a good hockey game in that regard. We didn’t steal anything,” said Cassidy. “That’s a good way to hit the road, feeling good about your game. I think it’s just an extension of what we’ve been doing the last two, three weeks, ten games let’s say.

“Again, different guys [were] contributing — our top guys, they do their thing. But I thought everyone sort of pulled on the rope [against Detroit]. I thought [Charlie] Coyle’s line did a good job of establishing O-zone possession time and had a big influence on the momentum shifts for us.”

Earlier in the season, it appeared that games against bottom feeder teams like Detroit were traps of the highest order for the Bruins. At times their focus waned and it was clear they didn’t generate as much energy against lowly teams like Detroit, New Jersey, Chicago and Los Angeles, and that led to wasted opportunities for points against much lesser opponents during their stretch drive.  

Now the Bruins have won eight of their last nine games and continue to play with great focus, energy and effort while rounding their game into form for a stretch run that’s going to be challenging for everybody over the final 23 games.