Haggerty: Bruins' top line needs to perform

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Haggerty: Bruins' top line needs to perform

By Joe Haggerty
CSNNE.com

VANCOUVER On the surface Bostons top forward line had a pretty solid effort against the flying Canucks in Game One of the Cup Finals.

The Trio of David Krejci, Milan Lucic and Nathan Horton combined for 13 shots on net and appeared to be in on the action throughout the first round against Vancouver with a lull from the aforementioned forwards along with the rest of the team in decisive third period of the 1-0 loss at Rogers Arena.

Claude Julien correctly pointed out that the gaudy shot total wasnt reflective of the action on the ice in a general sense, but he easily could have been pinpointing Bostons big line failing to produce anything offensively in their very first try.

We managed 36 shots on net. That's just a number, said Julien. The scoring chances are what you have to look at. I think we can be better in regards to that.

Substitute 13 in for the 36 shots, and you have a valid summation of the first lines efforts amid a rowdy Vancouver atmosphere. A lot of high shot totals, but a real shortage of actual scoring chances.

The passable effort from Bostons top line definitely wasnt intense enough to win a hotly contested Stanley Cup Final game, and the trio knew it after reflecting on select moments from the game.

Checking the game video the next day confirmed it for all three players. The video never lies, and it was telling the Bruins they didnt use their assets properly and didnt always play their game of dump and punishment.

We have to just keep coming at them, said Krejci. We know we have some big forwards and Im sure their D is not happy when we put the puck deep. So we have to do that every single time. Eventually they turn the puck over, make a mistake and then we can make it count.

Its been our game all season. We have big forwards and we need to take advantage of it. Especially during the playoffs when you see these guys so many times, and depending on the day you might see them looking over their shoulder to see whats coming at them. Thats what we want. We want to make that happen.

Its the same feeling Bostons top line felt after disappointing Game One performances against the Canadiens and Lightning, and the reason the Bs fortunes ride heavily on their big offensive guns.

For me it was like the first game against Montreal. We were really excited and maybe even a little too excited, said Krejci. I didnt want to be too excited, but maybe I was and got a little carried away.

I think we tried to, but we didnt try hard enough. We have to get a little closer to the net and stay battling for those loose pucks. There were loose pucks in Game One especially on the PP, but the guys close to the net need to get there when shots are getting through. Maybe we can jump on the loose pucks and get some dirty goals.

The Bruins are 12-1 this postseason when getting at least one point from one of Krejci, Lucic or Horton, and that pattern is likely to repeat itself against a tough customer in Vancouver.

There is still plenty of hockey left, but our line has to score some goals if we want to win games, said Krejci, who fully embraces the responsibility of starting things up with his playmaking abilities. Thats what everybody expects from us, and as players thats what we expect. We have to get some more chances and bury some goals.

The big-bodied Lucic got into some nastiness with Kevin Bieksa and got flipped over on a hip check by Dan Hamhuis, but the 6-foot-3, 235-pounder never mixed it up close enough to the net. Its up to Lucic and the 6-foot-2, 220-pound Horton to bang bodies and create space near the painted area, and it never reached uncomfortable levels for Roberto Luongo when the threesome hopped over the boards.

It starts with physicality and perhaps even a little bullying of the Canucks, and that usually brings offensive results for Lucic and Horton once Krejci has some room to work his hands and playmaking mind.

I think that's what makes our line so productive is that we're just not all about scoring, said Lucic. We can go out there and maybe create momentum off hits and having a strong forecheck . . . doing other things like that.

Krejci is something of a perfectionist in all things, and is never fully happy with his effort no matter what the results say. Thats a good thing after Game One where the Bruins feel like they didnt fully have their feet on the ground. The plans for Krejci and Co. are pretty simple on the top line: generate plays in the offensive end and force the action to players like the Sedin Twins in their own end where they feel a little less sure of themselves.

We just need to be harder on the puck and protect the puck well. We need to take it down low. Weve got to work hard and not try to do too much with it, said Krejci. Weve got to just take it to the net. It might not be pretty goals, but the dirty ones count too. We need to find a way to get them.

Theyre good five-on-five. Theyre fast too and they like to go on rushes into the offensive zone and play a lot with the puck. I think we can take advantage of them, though, the Sedins in these guys. They dont want to play in their zone. I think theyre a minus for the whole playoffs.

Its good that the Bruins feel like they can exploit some of the weaknesses in Vancouvers game. Now its a matter of Bostons big guns going out and proving it before they fall into an 0-2 hole in the Cup Finals theyre not likely to climb out of.

Joe Haggerty can be reached at jhaggerty@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Joe on Twitter at http:twitter.comHackswithHaggs

Backes set to star in Animal Planet special this weekend

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Backes set to star in Animal Planet special this weekend

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.

What we learned in Bruins' 4-1 win over Kings: Back on track

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What we learned in Bruins' 4-1 win over Kings: Back on track

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