Bruins

Backes happy to star in 'special night' against old team

Backes happy to star in 'special night' against old team

BOSTON – Looking back on it now, David Backes was probably a little too emotional in his first two games against his old St. Louis Blues teammates.

The longtime Blues captain was perfectly fine in those two games against the team that let him walk in free agency, but the 33-year-old Backes didn’t think he’d really left his imprint on those games like he’d really wanted to. Well, that changed after Backes really gave it to his old team with his offense, heavy hitting and the kind of physical influence he can still will into a game on occasions as in the Bruins' 3-1 win over the Blues at TD Garden on Thursday night.

Backes was finally rewarded with an empty-net goal with 0.4 seconds remaining, but he was a force all night with a game-high eight shots on net and five board-rattling hits that let the Blues know he wasn’t going anywhere.

“I don’t know how many shots I had tonight, but it felt like I was on the cusp quite a few times right around the net where I belong,” said Backes, who played 727 regular-season games in 10 years with the Blues. “With [Jake Allen] out of the net, my eyes were large there at the end, and I was just hoping I didn’t hear that buzzer before it went in the back of the net. “Truthfully it was easier [playing the Blues] this year than it was when they came in last year and the first time I returned to my old building it was difficult and emotionally draining. By the time you got to the building you were almost already emotionally drained playing your old team.

“This time there was that ‘special night’ feeling, but it was also just another game where you’re playing a bunch of your old friends. We needed two points and I was able to be a little more productive, I think, than I was in those other two games. It was another great win for our team, and against that [Blues] team, it feels good.”

Certainly, it has to feel good for Backes anytime he does well against a Blues team that opted to walk away from him at 32 rather than come anywhere close to the five-year, $30 million contract that Boston offered him in free agency. So now, a proud guy such as Backes is going to have that in the back of his mind every time he suits up against St. Louis, at least as long as GM Doug Armstrong is running the show and Backes still has friends on the roster.

That showed in the way Backes blasted Ivan Barbashev in the first period to set the game’s tone. It was also there as the 6-foot-3, 221-pound forward created havoc in front of the Blues net pretty much all night.

“I think he wanted to make a statement with his old crew there and good for him,” said Bruce Cassidy. “He was a good leader tonight in every aspect. I thought he was around the puck a lot. Their line did a real good job for us, and [the empty netter was] a little icing on the cake for him, so good for him.”

After a first season of transition with the Bruins, it’s been a very good second act for Backes in Boston that included finally making his mark against his old team with a vintage power-forward performance in a B’s win.

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Rangers hire David Quinn away from BU as new head coach

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File photo

Rangers hire David Quinn away from BU as new head coach

In what is becoming a growing trend, a National Hockey League team has dipped into the collegiate ranks to find its next head coach. After a successful five-year stint as Jack Parker’s successor at Boston University, David Quinn has been named the 35th coach of the New York Rangers.

Quinn reportedly received a five-year contract to oversee a plan to reload the Blueshirts roster.

In that respect Quinn is perhaps the perfect choice for the Rangers -- a young, enthusiastic coach that excels in the teaching aspect of the game with young player. He posted a 105-67-21 record in his five seasons with the Terriers while developing young NHL talent like Jack Eichel, Charlie McAvoy and Clayton Keller. Quinn didn’t win a national title at Boston University but did finish as college hockey’s runner-up in his second season, losing to Providence College in the 2015 NCAA title game.

Leaving BU for New York had to be a difficult choice for the 51-year-old Cranston, R.I., native, given that the BU job probably could have been a lifetime gig (as it was for the legendary Parker before him). But there were certainly things about the Rangers job that Quinn couldn’t pass up, among them the prestige of coaching an Original Six team and also where familiar faces like Jeff Gorton and Chris Drury are part of the management team. Being able to compete head-to-head against his good friend Mike Sullivan, the coach of the Penguins, certainly didn’t hurt either.

Quinn expressed all of those mixed emotions in a statement released by BU when New York made his hiring official on Tuesday.

“I’m incredibly excited for this new challenge, but leaving a job like this is very hard to do,” he said. “BU is a special place that has given me so much, not only as a player and a student, but also as a coach. The lifelong friendships I’ve developed here over the years absolutely mean the world to me.

“I was so fortunate to work with the very best in athletic director Drew Marrochello and senior vice president Todd Klipp. BU hockey has always been bigger than the coach and they will bring in an outstanding one to continue the winning tradition here.”

Quinn is the latest in a new movement by NHL teams to pluck their coaches from the college ranks, which is producing so many quality players these days. The Flyers kicked it off in hiring Dave Hakstol away from the University of North Dakota a couple of years ago, and earlier this month the Dallas Stars hired Jim Montgomery away from the University of Denver after the Rangers initially showed interest.

It will be interesting to see where Boston University goes next. The Terriers have a wide swath of hockey-playing alumni to choose from, and people like Bruins assistant coaches Joe Sacco and Jay Pandolfo could also be candidates list if they wanted a college job.

Morning Skate: Look for Lightning strike in Game 7

Morning Skate: Look for Lightning strike in Game 7

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading, while we’re almost ready for Stanley Cup Final time.

*Who is going to step up in Game 7 between the Washington Capitals and Tampa Bay Lightning for the right to play in the Stanley Cup Final? Put my money on Nikita Kucherov, Victor Hedman and Andrei Vasilevskiy for the Bolts, but don’t sleep on Brayden Point either. That dude has been awesome in this postseason for Tampa Bay. Make sure to check out all the action tonight (8 p.m.) on NBCSN where Game 7’s are treated with the proper gravitas and import.

*Interesting piece from Pittsburgh columnist Ron Cook, who says part of Pittsburgh’s downfall this spring had to do with a “sour relationship” between Phil Kessel and Mike Sullivan. Is Phil Kessel becoming a problem in an NHL dressing room? This is me with my “not shocked” face.

*Pierre Lebrun talks with TSN 1040 out in Vancouver about the Evander Kane contract extension with the San Jose Sharks, which is supposed to be in the seven-year, $49 million range. That is a massive gamble on a player that’s scored 30 goals once in a career where he’s underachieved most of the time. To put it in perspective, Kane will be getting paid $1 million more per season than a much better player in Boston in Brad Marchand. That’s the makings of a really, really bad contract in my humble opinion.

*PHT writer James O’Brien says that the Carolina Hurricanes trading Jeff Skinner would haunt the team, but it sure looks like the Canes are moving for a house-cleaning in Carolina.

*FOH (Friend of Haggs) Jason Pothier out in Vegas says that all of the skepticism is gone when it comes to the Golden Knights acquiring Ryan Reaves after his big playoff moment.

*For something completely different: I’ve always wanted to see Mysterio on the big screen battling Spider-Man, and it looks like we will see that sooner rather than later as played by Jake Gyllenhaal. Sounds groovy to me.  

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