Detroit Red Wings

Backes on suspension: 'It's the world we live in'

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Backes on suspension: 'It's the world we live in'

BOSTON – David Backes was understandably a little conflicted about the first suspension of his 12-year NHL career, but ultimately understood that it’s “the world we live in” at the NHL level when it comes to hits and head injuries.

Red Wings forward Frans Nielsen has a suspected concussion after Backes' clipped him with a late hit as he skated by him in the Bruins' Tuesday night win over Detroit. Backes was handed a three-game suspension from the NHL on Wednesday afternoon. It was deemed “a forceful, high hit” by the NHL in addition to being very late. Those factors, combined with the injury, added up to three-game for a player with zero prior league discipline history in his 848-game NHL career.

Backes was accepting of his fate after getting to say his piece with the league in a phone hearing on Wednesday afternoon, but it was also clear that he viewed things a little differently once the decision had been rendered.

"First and foremost the fact that Frans Nielsen is hurt sucks. I wasn't intending to hurt him,” said Backes. “I hope he has a quick and full recovery and he's back on the ice soon. It was certainly an unintended consequence to a play that was kind of an awkward, one-off kind of play. The decision is the decision, and that’s the way process is currently in the Collective Bargaining Agreement. You swallow it. There’s no real recourse and there’s no appeal process for a three-game suspension.

“I think my agent did all the numbers and I’ve got something like 2,400 hits over 12 seasons. I’ve never even had a hearing, let alone a fine and let alone a suspension. I had one call maybe eight years ago from Brendan Shanahan when he was the head of player safety. He called to say ‘You’re being an idiot. Stop being an idiot.’ That seemed to be a pretty good reset for me. If we’re trying to teach a lesson or critique one out of 2,400 hits that I was trying to avoid, I don’t know how effective that is. It’s a small, little decimal if you do the division. But it’s where we’re at. It’s the situation we’re in. It’s the world we live in as the league likes to say a lot. It’s the world we live and we just have to move forward with what’s gone on.”

The Backes suspension follows the same track as the Andrew Cogliano suspension, where it appears the NHL is coming down hard on any late hits with head injuries, and in this case really looking to wipe out the late, unnecessary hits like Backes against Nielsen.

With Backes out of the lineup on Thursday night against the Flyers, Tommy Wingels will step in and center the third-line between Danton Heinen and Brian Gionta. It will be similar for the Bruins to the early-season stretch when they went the first few months without having Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci and Backes together due to injuries.

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Torey Krug stepping up in Bruins' time of need on back end

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AP Photo

Torey Krug stepping up in Bruins' time of need on back end

BOSTON – Torey Krug certainly wasn’t shying away from the responsibility he felt to step up and provide some offense from the back end with Charlie McAvoy out of the lineup.

Krug did much better than simply talking the talk, however, and instead he went out and scored a couple of goals in Boston’s 6-5 overtime win over the Detroit Red Wings, and also helped set up Brad Marchand’s OT game-winner in the extra session.

In all, Krug finished with a couple of goals and four points along with a plus-2 rating in 20:18 of ice time, and took it upon himself to step up and be more explosive offensively knowing one of the other main puck-movers will be out of the lineup.

“For sure. He’s [Charlie McAvoy] a guy that plays in every situation, a lot of minutes against top quality opponents,” said Krug. “You want to be the guy who they put more on your shoulders and more on your plate in front of you. Definitely the last time he went out of the lineup, I felt like I took another step in the right direction in my game. Obviously, I want to continue that this time.

“At the end of the day it’s just another in-division team that I’m always excited to play against. It’s a big moment for our team. This time of the season, we got to get as many points as we can. Obviously [it’s] a lot of fun getting the win.”

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It was Krug that got the ball rolling for the Bruins with a long bomb from the point just 37 seconds into the game, and then he crashed backdoor on the PP a little later in the first period after getting teed up with a Brad Marchand cross-ice pass. Needless to say his first game with newly acquired defenseman Nick Holden was also a successful experiment that we’ll probably see much more of in the near future with McAvoy out for at least a month.

“Torey is a good shooter. The puck is finding the back of the net. I just talked to him about his decision making: When to shoot and what’s the appropriate pass versus shot. But those are his decisions on the ice. They happen in a split second. Then, to be patient with it, not force goals, and I think he’s done a good job with that,” said Bruce Cassidy. “You look at the goals [against the Red Wings], one was when Holden took that shot from the point and [Krug] wasn’t crashing the back of the net; It was open ice and the puck found him because he was in a good spot. 

“He did go down on the power-play goal; I think it was the right play. So, some of that – he hit the post later from up top. I think he showed good patience to get into good shooting positions, and that’s a credit to him.”

With a month left in the season, Krug is in good position to set career-highs while on pace for 17 goals and 60 points and is once again averaging more than 20 minutes of ice time per game for the third straight season. All of that puts the 26-year-old D-man in a unique position to replace some of what McAvoy brings to the table on a nightly basis, and Krug did just that in a high-octane, offense-heavy win over the Red Wings.

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First taste of life without McAvoy looked rough for B's

First taste of life without McAvoy looked rough for B's

BOSTON – The first returns of life without Charlie McAvoy weren’t very encouraging ones for the Bruins.

Clearly, there will be plenty more time to evaluate things with the 20-year-old out for the next four weeks with a sprained MCL in his left knee and the Bruins hope things will get better as they adjust to life without him for the next month.

Still, the Bruins defense was pretty poor Tuesday night in a 6-5 overtime win over the Red Wings at TD Garden and the newly reformed Zdeno Chara/Brandon Carlo pairing was at the heart of some of the worst struggles. Bruce Cassidy acknowledged those struggles after the game while hoping it was a one-time event, but the truth is the Bruins were lucky they were playing a poor team like the Red Wings where they could still come away with two points despite the careless level of play.

“Some of it, as a coach, you understand, and the other part of it is they’ll always be held accountable and they’re told that. We know there are 82 of these [games], and it’s hard to stay in the moment for 82, and [be] focused and not want to have a little offensive surge and trade chances,” said Cassidy. “But we’re trying to play to our identity, as well. So we talked about it. Hopefully, it doesn’t go in one ear and out the other and we take it to heart and build on it for our next game.

“Some of that was winning those pucks and getting the clears. So, that was the common denominator. I don’t think it was like Montreal where we turned it over a lot and it was all odd-man rushes. I mean, we had a line change in the second, we got messed up, they got a breakaway. They’ll do that, Detroit, they spring guys. So it was kind of the opposite of Montreal where our slot coverage, typically our strength, [was where] we needed to be better.”

The aforementioned Chara/Carlo pairing certainly didn’t get all of last season’s chemistry back in one fell swoop against the Red Wings. Instead, the 40-year-old Chara had one of those nights where perhaps he looked his age a little bit and made errors in puck management and defensive-zone coverage while on the ice for four of the five goals Detroit scored. Perhaps even more noteworthy, Chara ended up playing 25-plus minutes with many more on tap this month. He didn’t ring up a single registered hit or blocked shot despite leading all players in ice time.

Carlo wasn’t much better. He was on the ice for three Detroit goals and both tall, rangy defenders were far from the shutdown pair they were on many nights last season. We may learn in the next month that McAvoy was indeed a big part of Chara enjoying such a successful season and there may be some choppy waters ahead without him.

But some of the rough night for Chara can also be attributed to it being late in the season when the Bruins are in a stretch of 16 games in the 31 days of March. The truth with Chara is that the B’s would be best served to rest him at some designated points in the final month of the regular season. That may mean convincing him to be a healthy scratch on a couple of occasions given A) Boston’s comfortable position within the Eastern Conference playoff standings and B) the Bruins ideal depth on the back end since the addition of Nick Holden.

“I’ll have to look closer at that,” said Cassidy, when asked about the Chara/Carlo pairing after the game. “I think there was so much going on [against the Red Wings] that I didn’t worry too much about that part. They’ve played together, so they will find their chemistry. I thought Brandon was skating better again. He is trying to move pucks out of the zone with his feet, so that’s a good thing.”

That is a good thing and that is the hope over the next month. Playing with Chara again as a shutdown pairing might be the best thing that could happen for the 21-year-old Carl. Certainly, he played with more surliness and attitude in the defensive zone than we’ve seen in the past. Those things bode well for both Carlo and the Bruins as he prepares for his first playoff experience as well and perhaps it will work out over the next month.

But the defensive debacle against Detroit also painted a pretty stark picture of what life could be like for the Bruins in the playoffs without their 20-year-old wunderkind Charlie McAvoy and it wasn’t a very pretty one at all.

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