Julien: Bruins will have to 'adapt' without Thomas

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Julien: Bruins will have to 'adapt' without Thomas

While the talk this summer has largely been about most of the Boston Bruins team returning intact for next season, there is obviously one large exception in goaltender Tim Thomas.

The 38-year-old Bruins goalie is walking away from the team to spend time reconnecting with friends, faith and family out in Colorado this year, and so the goaltending duties will fall to twenty-something puck-stoppers in Tuukka Rask and Anton Khudobin. It wont be easy to replace a goaltender in Thomas that was the single biggest individual reason that Boston won the Cup when he nabbed the Vezina Trophy and Conn Smythe Trophy during an epic run through the playoffs.

But Claude Julien was asked about the four-time All-Star goaltenders decision to forego the Bruins and the NHL this season an action Thomas has never quite confirmed in any of his cagey Facebook posts and referenced his teams endless ability to roll with adversity and absent players.

The Bruins have been without Marc Savard for the better part of two years and were able to win a Stanley Cup without their playmaking center. They made the playoffs in Juliens first season without the services of a concussed Patrice Bergeron.

Theres a precedent there for this current edition of Black and Gold players to power through missing players.

We lost a guy by the name of Marc Savard, who led our team in scoring every year. We were able to adapt. I see the absence of Thomas as a same kind of a challenge, said Julien. Theres no doubt, nobodys going to deny what Tims done here for our hockey club over the years, but weve mentioned that Tuukka is a very capable goaltender

It certainly helps the Bruins as well when a longtime prospect and goalie of the future like Rask is waiting in the wings, and the Bruins just hope he seizes the opportunity with a healthy, consistent season.

Rask has got his opportunity to showcase himself this year and I think when I saw Khudobin play -- whether it was training camp or whether it was when he was with us that game in Ottawa -- you can see a goaltender who has not only improved, but he has matured, said Julien. I honestly have a lot of confidence in our goaltending. Weve also drafted and signed a few goaltenders as well. I think our depth is there. I dont really see that as an issue. I have the confidence in what I have for goalies in front of me right now.

Rask and Khudobin have over 100 combined games of NHL experience as they ready to be Bostons goaltending tandem next season, so there should be some level of confidence in them. Rask even led the league in goals against average and save percentage three seasons ago with the Bruins.

So there are reasons for optimism, but theyll both have to prove it next season while filling up the gaping hole left by a guy that put together one of the greatest seasons of all-time two years ago.

Backes doesn't back down from criticism of those who ripped Team USA

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Backes doesn't back down from criticism of those who ripped Team USA

BRIGHTON -- He may not get the chance, since he's now 32 and has thrown (and taken) plenty of hits during his 11-year NHL career, but new Bruin David Backes said he hopes to play for Team USA again to “have a nice taste in my mouth”.

Clearly, his last experience left a bad taste: The Americans finished dead last in the World Cup of Hockey, which is winding down now with Team Europe and Team Canada playing for the championship.

What also left a bad taste for Backes were the passive-aggressive Tweets sent out by U.S.-born players like Phil Kessel and Bobby Ryan after the Americans lost all three games they played in the World Cup. And he isn't about to back down from the pointed criticism he directed at them.

“I was one of the guys called upon to go to the rink on a day off after we were eliminated . . . . one of four to stand up and answer the questions,” said Backes, who certainly showed his personal accountability by showing up to answer questions after Team USA had flopped on the world stage. “Rather than defer and plead the Fifth, I thought it was something we needed to address. I think it’s easy to sit back and sling mud . . . when you’re not a part of it.

“[You can] kind of make yourself feel good about it (by criticizing Team USA) for a second, but if I wasn’t selected for the team, or if I’m not selected to the Olympic team in two years, I’m still American, I’ve still worn that jersey, and I’m going to root for those guys and hope everything goes well. If it doesn’t, I’m going to be crushed like I was on the team. That’s how I think as a team guy and as a guy that’s worn that jersey proudly and how much it means to me.

"I just hope and wish the other guys had those same feelings. If you’ve got some vindication not being on the team, and the team failing or not accomplishing the goal, then you should internalize that and use it as motivation going forward. You don’t need to join in with the chatter that’s negative and keeps piling on. Those are my visceral thoughts on the subject.”

Backes was a healthy scratch for Team USA’s final game against the Czech Republic, a listless defeat that dropped the U.S. to the bottom of the World Cup standings. That’s a bitter pill to swallow for a competitor who clearly understands the importance of representing one’s country.

So it’s no surprise the Bruins center hopes he gets a chance to redeem himself by making the 2018 Winter Olympics team. Backes has skated for the U.S. in each of the last two Olympics.

“I hope (the World Cup isn't the last time I play for my country), but that’s out of my control,” said Backes. “If my services seem like I can help a team be successful, I’d love to put that jersey on and have a nice taste in my mouth for the last time I use it, or the next time I use it. But there are a lot of great players that are Americans, and the next GM, or whoever it is constructing the team, will have decisions to make. Whoever they pick, I hope [the team] goes and puts us back on top of the pedestal for whatever competition it is.”

Clearly the Bruins hope that as well, since it would be a clear indicator Backes is performing at an elite level a couple of seasons into his five-year, big-money contract with Boston.

Marchand: 'No place I'd rather play' than Boston

Marchand: 'No place I'd rather play' than Boston

The Bruins made it official on Monday -- mere minutes after the news had broken -- as they clearly couldn’t wait to announce an eight year, $49 million contract extension for Brad Marchand. who is finishing up his Team Canada gig at the World Cup of Hockey.

PROFILE: Joe Haggerty's preseason look at Brad Marchand

The deal averages $6.125 million per season, broken up between actual salary and signing bonus money. The Bruins were most definitely given a hometown discount by an elite player who snapped home a career-high 37 goals and 60 points last season, the most goals scored by a Bruins player since Glenn Murray in 2002-03. And everybody knows goal scorers get paid in the NHL, even if Marchand won’t be expected to score quite that many every year.

Marchand, 28, has also been the second-leading scorer in the entire World Cup of Hockey tournament, behind only Sidney Crosby, and continues to raise his profile in the NHL world beyond his customary agitator role. The “Nose Face Killah” could have waited for until free agency if he'd wanted to pick up every last nickel on the table, but it’s very clear he’s invested in the team that drafted and developed him, and with which he won a Cup five years ago.

"This is an extremely exciting day for me and my family," said Marchand, who now has a full no-move clause for the first five years of his next contract. "I would like to thank the Jacobs family, [president] Cam Neely, [general manager] Don Sweeney, [coach] Claude Julien, the coaching staff, my teammates and our fans for their continued support and belief in me. I have been a Bruin since the start of my pro career and there is no place I would rather play. I look forward to doing everything I can to help our team achieve success and bring the Stanley Cup back to Boston."

Marchand has been among the team’s leading scorers since joining the league in 2010-11, has been the NHL’s most dangerous penalty killer over the last five years, and pairs with Patrice Bergeron to anchor the top line. He’s also become much more of a leader in the last few seasons as other character veterans have been peeled away from the core group, and a hometown discount proves it one of the most meaningful ways possible.

It was clear Marchand was invested in the Bruins when he helped recruit free agent David Backes with phone calls this summer, and he was also present for the recruiting pitch to Jimmy Vesey at Warrior Ice Arena last month.

The Bruins players at training camp were happy to hear No. 63 was going to be in Boston for the long haul.

“Marchy is Marchy. I think everybody kind of knows what that means,” said Kevan Miller. “He’s been great for our organization and great for the fans and for this city. He’s been all in since Day One, and he’s been a guy that I looked up to.”

While the Bruins have confirmed the contract, Sweeney won't weigh in until later today. But one would expect there will be an appreciation for the skill of the player, and Marchand’s commitment to the organization after accepting less than he could have gotten on the open market.