WILMINGTON, Mass. Cracking the Boston Bruinsopening night roster was a dream come true for Chris Bourque, but now comes thehard part. The 26-year-old Bourque has enjoyed the best NHL shot of his prohockey career in Bostonthus far, and its been impossible to take the smile from his face. But the Bruins forward isnt simply along for the ride, andhe's looking to stretch his playmaking muscles in order to showcase hisoffensive abilities. That hasnt happened through the first three games while averaging13 minutes of ice time per game. Hes been held scoreless with only a singleshot on net in three games along with a minus-2 rating while skating with RichPeverley and Chris Kelly. The oldest son of Hall of Famer Ray Bourque has beenflirting with putting up offensive numbers, of course. Bourque missed high with an empty netgoal in last weekends home opener against the Rangers and was on the ice withthe second PP unit when Dougie Hamilton and Brad Marchand finally broke throughin last nights 4-3 overtime loss. Thats a far cry from the player that led the entire AHLwith 93 points last season, however, and Bourque is looking to tap into thoseabilities now that hes getting comfortable in his new surroundings. Part of it is confidence, part of it is feeling the need toprove some things to his new teammates and part of it is simply walking theline between being a physical third-line two-way player and a skill guy looking up theice to make plays. Im getting pretty comfortable. Maybe Im keeping it alittle too simple, said Bourque, who has averaged 3:11 of power play ice timein the Bs first three games this season. Im trying to find my way. Ive feltbetter game by game, but obviously they want me to make offensive plays outthere. Ive been focusing defense first for the most part. But I also think theoffense will come after getting the nerves out in the first few games at home.Claude Julien said he sees a player in Bourque that hasntyet felt that level of confidence at the NHL level that hes shown as a topscorer in the American Hockey League. But the Bruins coaching staff remainsfully confident that Bourque will find his rhythm, and theyre still puttinghim out with Bostonssecond power play unit as they start to gel as a group. I just think right now that hes trying to feel his waythrough . . . period, said Julien. We know he can make plays. Weve seen it beforethat when he moves his feet things can happen. As a coaching staff we know whatweve seen from him in Providenceand you give him an opportunity to feel his way through a little bit. Everybody gets nervous sometimes when theyre with a newteam and everybody adjusts differently. But hes got such good vision, skilland he can shoot the puck. Those are assets for him and you hope something goodcan happen for him to build that confidence.All that being said Bourque saw three shifts for a grandtotal of 1:30 in the third period of last nights grudge match against theRangers. Hes been routinely replaced by Daniel Paille on the third line whenJulien is looking for a little more defenseexperience, and that can make it alittle challenging. Its a challenging spot to be in for a player anxious tomake an impact after passing through the Capitals and Penguins organizations,but theres also a pretty simple answer for Bourque. At every level, hes been an offensive player with the confidence that there are plays are all over the iceto be made. He needs to find that again in what is likely the best chance he'll ever get to carve out an NHL job for himself.
Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading, while giving two thumbs up to The Lego Batman Movie after a screening with my 3 1/2 year old.
*Alex Prewitt has a profile on Anaheim defenseman prospect Shea Theodore as he waits for his time with the Ducks.
*The Vancouver Canucks have a mumps problem this season, and we continue to wonder why this is becoming an issue again in a first-world society.
*PHT writer and FOH (Friend of Haggs) Jason Brough has Patrick Eaves dealt to the Ducks for what could be first round pick if Anaheim advances far enough through the playoffs.
*Flyers GM Ron Hextall says that Philly’s young team won’t be buying ahead of next week’s NHL trade deadline.
*Along with his “Sutter-isms”, diversity is a family value for the Los Angeles Kings head coach Darryl Sutter.
*Dave Strader gets back into the broadcast booth with the Dallas Stars, and will be a welcomed addition to the national NBC broadcast of Bruins/Stars on Sunday afternoon.
*As cold as he was earlier in the season, New York Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist is heating up now for the Blueshirts.
*For something completely different: Brie Larson is already prepping for her role as Captain Marvel by stepping up her game as an influence for positive change among her Hollywood peers.
It’s only a coincidence that it will air the same week that the Boston Bruins went Hollywood with their annual three-game road trip through California, but David Backes and his wife Kelly are going to get some solid TV time this weekend. The animal-loving couple are going to be featured Saturday night in the all-new Animal Planet special "Stars to the Rescue," which highlights the Backes family’s excellent work to ensure every animal has a ‘furever’ home.
The lifelong animal lovers have adopted five rescue pets that all made the move from St. Louis to Boston this summer, and launched Athletes for Animals in 2013, a non-profit organization supporting professional athletes and animal advocacy efforts. The 32-year-old Backes chose a Boston animal shelter as his first setting to meet with the Boston media this summer after signing with the Bruins in free agency, and spoke glowingly about his inspiration for marrying two of his passions: helping animals and sports.
“The full story is that in college we wanted an animal or two, but it just wasn’t responsible because we were renting and the landlords didn’t approve," said Backes, the proud owner of four dogs (Maverick, Rosey, Marty and Bebe) and two cats (Sunny, Poly). "We just didn’t really have the time or resources to support them, so we volunteered at the local shelter for the three years I was in school.
“When my wife [Kelly] and I moved to St. Louis, we wanted to connect with the community, be a part and use our voice to influence social change to do our part making the world a little bit of a better place. So we said, ‘Why not connect with the animal welfare rescue community?’
“We absolutely love doing it: Walking dogs, scooping litter boxes and cleaning kennels. Let’s use our voice to kick this off and see what we can do, and it really just snowballed from that to then trying to tie other guys into it. It’s not limited to the animal stuff, but the animals that don’t have a voice, and the kids that don’t have a voice, really tug at our heart strings. We want to help them with this blessing of a great voice we’ve been given as professional athletes, and to really use that to give them some help.”
The “Stars to the Rescue” special premieres on Saturday night at 8 pm on Animal Planet where there will be a full segment on the Backes family, but here’s a clip where Backes talks about his well-publicized involvement with a number of stray dog rescues during his 2014 Olympic Hockey stint with Team USA in Sochi, Russia.
Backes isn’t the only Boston athlete featured during the Animal Planet special as it also chronicles the stories of other well-known athletes and celebrities and the dogs they can't live without: Olympic gymnast Aly Raisman, Baltimore Ravens’ Ronnie Stanley, Selma Blair, ESPN Correspondent Michelle Beadle, WNBA star Elena Delle Donne, former Red Sox knuckleballer Tim Wakefield and more. From training buddies to comforting companions, “Stars to the Rescue” shows first-hand how these celebrities first met their cute rescued canines and how their dogs have impacted and transformed their lives for the better.