Bruins vs. Leafs Game 1: Why David Backes as a healthy scratch is right move

Bruins vs. Leafs Game 1: Why David Backes as a healthy scratch is right move

We still don't know the official Boston Bruins lineup for Game 1 of their first-round Stanley Cup playoff series against the Toronto Maple Leafs on Thursday night, but at this point, it would be pretty surprising to see David Backes among the forwards selected.

Taking a veteran player out a playoff lineup as a healthy scratch always is difficult, especially for someone like Backes. The 34-year-old winger is a tremendous leader, plays the type of physical hockey B's fans love, and has 67 games of postseason experience on his résumé. 

Still, making him a healthy scratch absolutely is the right decision by Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy (assuming that's what ultimately happens). Cassidy said Wednesday he doesn't think there will be any surprises when the lineup is announced Thursday.

Here are the forward lines from Wednesday's practice. You'll notice Backes was the extra right wing on the fourth line.

Brad Marchand--Patrice Bergeron--David Pastrnak
Jake DeBrusk--David Krejci--Karson Kuhlman
Marcus Johansson--Charlie Coyle--Danton Heinen
Joakim Nordstrom--Noel Acciari--Chris Wagner/David Backes

This Bruins-Leafs series should feature plenty of hitting, but there's going to be a ton of speed on the ice, too. This series also features two of the highest-scoring offenses in the NHL. Toronto scored the fourth-most goals during the regular season, while Boston ranked 11th. Special teams is going to be pivotal as well, particularly when Boston's third-ranked power play is on the ice against Toronto's 18th-ranked penalty kill. 

Backes doesn't bring a ton of speed, and his offensive production (seven goals in 70 games) was disappointing this season. He's neither a key member of the penalty kill nor an essential part of the power play's success.

Backes' skill set just isn't a great fit for how this Bruins-Leafs series likely will be played. This doesn't mean he won't factor at all in the playoffs. If the Bruins advance, a different opponent could present certain situations where Backes could be effective. Injuries always are a burden in the postseason, and those setbacks could open up opportunities for players who are sitting as a healthy scratch. 

But at the moment, the best possible lineup for the Bruins entering Game 1 doesn't include Backes. Luckily for the B's, you know Backes is going to handle it like a true professional and do whatever he can to help his teammates.

Experts make their picks for Bruins vs. Leafs>>>

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NHL All-Star Skills Competition live stream: How to watch it online

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NHL All-Star Skills Competition live stream: How to watch it online

David Pastrnak, who leads the NHL with 37 goals, is the lone Bruins representative in the NHL All-Star Weekend in St. Louis and his participation begins Friday night when he takes part in a new part of the All-Star Skills Competition, the "Shooting Stars" event.

The Shooting Stars involves players standing about 30 feet high on a platform and shooting at targets. Last year, Pastrnak won the NHL Accuracy Shooting competition but will try his hand this year at the new event.

The other new event is the Elite Women's 3-on-3. In that event, two women's teams -- American All-Stars and Canadian All-Stars -- each comprised of nine skaters and one goalie, will go head-to-head in a 3-on-3 game will consist of two 10-minute periods, with a running clock. Teams will switch ends after the first period. All penalties will be "served" with a penalty shot being awarded to the player specifically fouled.

Here are the other skills competitions on Friday, which begin at 8 p.m., ET on NBC Sports Network (The All-Star Game is Saturday night at 8 on NBC):

- NHL Fastest Skater
- NHL Save Streak
- Honda NHL Accuracy Shooting
- NHL Hardest Shot

Click here's to watch the skills competition online via the NBC Sports MyTeams app. 

Potential Bruins trade target Chris Kreider responds to rumors ahead of deadline

Potential Bruins trade target Chris Kreider responds to rumors ahead of deadline

New York Rangers forward Chris Kreider is going to be one of the most talked about players as the Feb. 24 NHL trade deadline approaches.

It's not hard to understand why. The 6-foot-3, 216-pound winger has the type of power forward skill set that is well-suited for the Stanley Cup playoffs, which makes him an attractive trade target for any contending team. In fact, NBC Sports Boston's Bruins insider Joe Haggerty reported earlier this week that Kreider "will be the Bruins' top option for a top-six winger at the trade deadline, according to multiple hockey sources."

The Rangers are 11 points behind the Carolina Hurricanes for the second wild-card playoff berth in the Eastern Conference, so the chances of the Blueshirts making the postseason are pretty slim. Kreider is an unrestricted free agent in July, and it would make sense for the Rangers to trade him before the deadline and not risk losing a very talented player for nothing in free agency.

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Kreider was asked about his Rangers future at NHL All-Star Media Day on Thursday, and his immediate focus is solely on his current team.

"I’m just worried about winning hockey games," Kreider said Thursday at All-Star Media Day, per ProHockeyTalk. "Winning solves a lot of problems. It’s the old adage and probably a little bit cliché, but we take it one day at a time, one game at a time and just try and get better. I think we are getting better. Our group’s worlds better than we were at the beginning of the year.”

Kreider also added: "I’ve only ever pictured myself in a Rangers jersey, and until I’m not a Ranger, I’m a Ranger.”

The 28-year-old forward has tallied 32 points (17 goals, 15 assists) in 48 games this season. He's almost certainly going to hit the 20-goal mark for the fifth time in his career.

Besides his offensive skill and physical style of play, Kreider also is a good target for the Bruins because of his familiarity with Boston. He was born in Massachusetts and played three seasons at Boston College. 

Kreider has 77 games of playoff experience as well, and several of his 23 career postseason goals came in clutch situations.

The Bruins have a great chance to win the Stanley Cup this season, and it would behoove them to upgrade their roster with another proven top-six forward who can provide secondary scoring behind the Perfection Line. Kreider is an ideal player for that type of role.

Haggerty: Top-six forwards for B's to pursue at trade deadline