The rivalry resumes tonight, and the B's say they're ready

571934.jpg

The rivalry resumes tonight, and the B's say they're ready

MONTREAL -- The Bruins won the final four regular-season meetings last year with the Montreal Canadiens, an abominable team that deserved to be in the depths of the Eastern Conference . . . as it was, with 78 points. The Bruins were the hammer and Montreal was the nail after the Habs swept an early season home-and-home while Boston still snored through its Stanley Cup hangover.

But things are different this season and the Bruins seem to fully realize it as they travel into the Bell Centre tonight without Shawn Thornton, Daniel Paille or Brad Marchand.

The Black and Gold are facing a Montreal team thats started the season an impressive 5-1-0 on home ice, and can overtake the Bruins for first place in the Northeast Division with a victory.

Its going to be like always. These games are played with a lot of energy and a lot of jump, said Zdeno Chara, who -- thanks to his hit on Max Pacioretty -- knows just how much unhinged energy courses through the citizens of Montreal when it comes to their hockey team. Last year is last year. This is a new season. This is a Montreal team thats a lot better, so we have to be a lot better too.

The additions of Brandon Prust and Colby Armstrong have added a little more fight and a little extra grit to the traditional Montreal lineup, though there's no 6-foot-8-sized monster looking to get even for a grudge as there was when the B's played Buffalo last week.

But, even without them, games between these teams are always intense. All four of the Bruins' victories last year were one-goal victories, a testament to the on-ice intensity that always exists regardless of personnel. All one needs to do is remember when tough guy David Krejci dropped the gloves with Mike Cammalleri back in 2010 to realize that everybody gets whipped in the Original Six rivalry.

Its always a hard game against the Canadiens, said Andrew Ference. Its funny how teams can change and personnel can change, but its always a hard game with them. From year to year the feeling and the preparation doesnt change at all because you know its going to be a hard game.

Theyre always physical games. I know there have been times where we were supposed to come in as the big, tough team and they have out-hit us.

Its funny with our two teams: whether teams are on hot streaks or losing streaks it always turns into a close game between us. Obviously Prust is a physical player and a gritty player, but I dont think that was lacking in years past when we played against them.

With the importance of every divisional game within a 48-game schedule and Montreal nipping at Bostons heels in the standings, there's plenty of motivational fodder for both hockey clubs above and beyond any traditional rivalry stuff. The bottom dropping out for Montreal last year might have been enjoyable for many in Boston, but its over now and the chatter behind Wednesdays BsHabs game is proof positive of that.

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

backes_march072716_copy_1920x1080_733335619528.jpg

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.