Sweeney on Tavares: "We put our best foot forward and it didn't fall our way"

Sweeney on Tavares: "We put our best foot forward and it didn't fall our way"

BRIGHTON, Mass – While it was ultimately disappointment for the Boston Bruins in their chase for big ticket free agent John Tavares, it wasn’t the kind of crushing blow that will discourage Don Sweeney in his offseason team-building efforts.

Tavares picked the Toronto Maple Leafs team he grew up rooting for on Sunday afternoon while deciding between six teams including the New York Islanders team that drafted him No. 1 overall almost ten years ago. The 27-year-old Tavares signed a seven year, $77 million contract with the Leafs after spending his weekend mulling the decision, and by most accounts left money on the table with better offers from teams including the B’s, Stars, Sharks and Tampa Bay Lightning.

Clearly the addition of Tavares to an already strong Toronto core group significantly improves the Maple Leafs, and that leaves the Bruins as the third best team in the Atlantic Division behind both the Leafs and the Lightning. That’s the most disappointing part for Sweeney, who took it as an organizational compliment that Tavares considered Boston in the first place.

“I would’ve preferred [Tavares] not be in our division. The overall process was a really good process to structurally have somebody else dive inside our own team. We were thankful for the opportunity to present,” said Sweeney. “Pat [Brisson] and his group and John himself were really good about it, and he was well prepared. We felt we were.

“We put our best foot forward and it didn’t fall our way. But, again, to be in that situation is something that our group should be happy about, and it’s probably a reflection of what we’re trying to do and trying to accomplish…but I wish it had fallen our way.”

The good news is that the Bruins don’t have to go through the salary cap gymnastics that would have been mandatory had they signed a player of Tavares’ caliber. Sweeney admitted earlier this week that he had moves already set in place if they did somehow land the elite center, and it was expected that either David Krejci or David Backes, or perhaps both, would have been on the move if those dominoes started falling.

Now the Bruins have less urgency from a salary cap perspective with their current roster with roughly $4 million in cap space after entering the NHL free agency market. They still need a second-line winger to add some scoring punch to their attack up front, but sounds like it might be a slow play on the trade market to eventually get that player.

On this day, though, it was about the Bruins shooting for it all by chasing Tavares in free agency, and falling short again after they took a similar swing at Ilya Kovalchuk during NHL Draft weekend as well. The Bruins are falling short in closing the deal on these elite players, but there’s also something to be said with Boston being in the mix at all with game-breaking players.

“It’s obviously a reflection of our current players and a testament to them. I think stylistically, to our coaches, to the organization, to the support from ownership, with this [new practice] facility, overall, it’s a reflection of our entire organization,” said Sweeney. “I’ve said all along, it’s about winning. That’s the mandate that we’re trying to put forward to all of our players, whether it was the development camp guys or the highest-level free agency players that we’re trying to attract and to be a part of what we’re trying to do.”

That was obviously part of the Boston sales pitch with Tavares that included a phone call from Patrice Bergeron, but eventually fell short of the rival Maple Leafs getting much, much better in NHL free agency.  


Bruins' David Backes barely escapes serious injury in taking skate blade to the face

AP Photo

Bruins' David Backes barely escapes serious injury in taking skate blade to the face

BOSTON – It seems like David Backes has been a magnet for high sticks this season and the 34-year-old has also missed time with a concussion as well.

The bad luck streak continued for him on Tuesday night when Backes caught an errant skate blade to the face in the first period as Oliver Ekman-Larsson kicked up his skates aside the Arizona net. He immediately sprinted off the ice toward the Bruins dressing room while covering his bloody face with his hand.  

True to hockey player form, Backes returned and played 15:31 of ice time with three shot attempts, three hits and went 4-for-10 in the face-off circle while toughing it out with a face full of stitches.

“I didn’t know what happened at first, but the way [Backes] came off you figured it was worse than a high stick. Sure enough. Those are tough, up around your eyes too, but he was able to play through it,” said Bruce Cassidy. “I’m sure he’ll be sore tomorrow. Charlie [McAvoy] too got a high stick under the visor, so he’s had some tough luck recently, but he’s battling through it. It was a bit like our game [against the Coyotes]. It wasn’t pretty, but we got through it.”

Backes didn’t discuss his close call with the media following the Bruins win, but was spotted walking out of TD Garden with a stitched up slice next to his nose, but thankfully far from his neck, his eyes or anywhere else where the blade could have done major damage. Instead Backes will just add to the character of a 34-year-old face that’s seen its share of bumps and bruises over the course of a long NHL career. 

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Krejci relishes his chance to produce with Bruins' top line

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Krejci relishes his chance to produce with Bruins' top line

BOSTON – All it took was a move up to the Bruins' top line in place of the injured Patrice Bergeron to ignite David Krejci’s offense and playmaking abilities.

Krejci finished with three assists in a 4-3 win over the Arizona Coyotes on Tuesday night and is riding a four-game point streak with two goals and seven points since getting installed with Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak last week in the loss to Tampa Bay.

“It’s been fun. Those are two world-class players, so I’m just happy to be on that line and happy to help the team win [some] games,” said Krejci, who has four goals and 23 points in 30 games this season. “I’m just going to try to be in the right time at the right place, so you know, they make things happen. [It’s] so much fun playing with those guys. So [I’m] just filling in for Bergy [Patrice Bergeron] and happy I can help the team win games.”

Before then, the Bruins were trying to get by with Colby Cave, Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson or Joakim Nordstrom in between the two star scorers and there were mixed results with each of them.

Once it was clear something wasn’t right with the health of Jake DeBrusk, however, it became inevitable that B’s would create a super line with Marchand, Krejci and Pastrnak. And it’s coincided with the B's offense enjoying some of their best scoring games since Zdeno Chara and Patrice Bergeron went down with injuries.

“Obviously it took a couple games, but, you know, today all we needed to do was drive to the net with [David Krejci]. He’s a great playmaker. It’s been fun tonight,” said Pastrnak, who was then asked if Krejci is a “pass-first” kind of player. “[Krejci] is a pass-first player, pass-second player, [pass] third, and then he shoots type of player.

“Bergy and Marchy like to play fast, and Krech likes to slow it down sometimes, you know, and it’s...both of [those styles] work, you know? Some nights it works better if you play fast and some nights it works better if you play slower. It’s just two star players and it’s been fun tonight, and obviously, it was a big game.”

Certainly, the chemistry is building with two Davids and a Brad Line. That was obvious by the tic-tac-toe passing that led to each of their goals with Marchand finishing on a couple of chances right around the net. The best of the bunch was the dish from Krejci through a couple of defenders to a wide open Marchand, who buried the shot and then was run over by a Coyotes defender far too late to the party.

That’s been part of the challenge the past few games for No. 46 to generate the offense, but also play the two-way game required when centering Marchand and Pastrnak. That means taking the big face-offs late in the game when there isn’t  No. 37 around to do it and pretty much doing whatever is required for the win.

“He slows the game down when he’s allowed to see the game quicker than everyone else, can make those plays when it looks like they’re closing off. He did it tonight, and we needed it,” said Bruce Cassidy. “Let’s face it. We need those guys to be our best players every night and offensively they’ve come through for us as of late. He’s an offensive guy, so when the puck goes in the back of the net and they’re making plays.

“He makes nice plays, creative plays. He’s going to enjoy the game. I’ve noticed in the rest of his game he’s digging in. He knows he has to be a good defensive center for those guys. They’re creative wingers that will leak out of their spots from time to time to anticipate a play. That’s when you have to have a centreman, and that’s when Bergy’s [Patrice Bergeron] so good at putting out those fires.”

Now, it’s Krejci’s job to put out some fires and generate some offense in one of the most coveted gigs in the NHL - centering big-time scorers Marchand and Pastrnak. It’s been so far, so good with nothing but wins and offensive production in each of the three full games that the three forwards have played together since last weekend. 


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