Haggerty: Savard should consider calling it a career

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Haggerty: Savard should consider calling it a career

By JoeHaggerty
CSNNE.com

BOSTON I bumped into a doctor friend on Wednesday afternoon, and he had a simple message for me to pass along.

If you run into Marc Savard, please do me a favor. Please tell him to retire while he still can.

Only the hockey gods know when Ill see Marc Savard next after he returned home to Peterborough, Ontario, this week to recover from the fourth concussion of his NHL career.

Savard proved his toughness by returning from a hellish concussion caused by a monstrously irresponsible Matt Cooke elbow last spring. The struggles Savard has gone through in returning from that cheap shot show how toothless the NHL was in making the original ruling on Cookes cowardice.

But Savard proved his toughness all over again by returning from the depths of post-concussion syndrome this fall, despite bouts of depression and anxiety that threatened to cripple the playmaking center for good.

Instead, No. 91 did what hes always done as an undersized scrapper of an assist man blessed with barely average skating speed: He battled and raged against those that doubted hed ever make it back. Its that Shrek-sized chip on Savards shoulder thats allowed him to excel in his NHL career, and it had served him well yet again.

The 33-year-old actually had made it back to 85 percent of himself in his last handful of games with the Bruins, and had posted points in four of his last five games heading into that fateful meeting last Saturday against the Avalanche.

Savard had received a warning shot just a couple of games before, when Pittsburgh defenseman Deryk Engelland drove his face and head into the corner boards at TD Garden.

But Savard managed to escape that potential car wreck with a dazed feeling in the hours following the game, and a little residual neck pain from the collision. The Bs center was sufficiently concerned that he met with doctors and underwent testing.

But things appeared okay for Savard after he bounced back from the scary incident.

He wasnt so lucky when Matt Hunwick finished a check on Savard, who was trapped in an unfortunately awkward position in the corner. And now things have come down to a simple plea from a vocal majority in the hockey community.

There have been too many cautionary tales with Eric Lindros, Pat Lafontaine, Paul Kariya, Keith Primeau and so many others that have had their NHL careers -- and their very lives and happiness -- altered by the destructive concussions perpetually looming as a threat to every hockey player.

Savard doesnt need to be a cautionary tale.

Hes made plenty of money over the years, hes been named an All-Star on multiple occasions, and he became a respected member of the hockey community in Boston as a part of some strong Bruins teams.

Savard has young children and a promising golf career that awaits when his hockey-playing days are behind him.

The Bs center simply has too much going for him to continue tempting fate that the next massive hit to his head will be the one to permanently ruin his life -- and irreparably scramble his brain into a confused mess.

The fact that Savards brain chemistry has already been altered from the Cooke hit while affecting his moods and changing his thought patterns should give him pause.

At the very least, the circumstances should push Savard toward sitting out the rest of the current hockey season while he rests and recovers at home.

Give it eight months while the Bruins sort out the rest of the current regular season and playoff run, get healed, and then give it one last try again next September when the symptoms, headaches and frightening brain fog have hopefully subsided.

Some within the Bruins may use Patrice Bergeron as an example of a player able to rebound from that second concussion within a 14-month span, but there are a few differences between Savard and Bergeron that make it a tough parallel.

Savard has had two more concussions than Bergeron in his career and Savard was 10 years older than Bergeron when he had to deal with the succession of serious head injuries.

Both of those factors make a gigantic difference and, sadly, neither of them work in Savards favor.

Nobody wants to deprive anyone of their livelihood or their passion, and hockey is most certainly that for Savard.

But nobody wants to ever see the image from Colorado again after Savards delicate head smashed off the unforgiving plexi-glass at the Pepsi Center.

The video of Savard struggling to get his feet before collapsing again and then overcome by emotion, grief and pain as he skated off the ice was enough to tie anybodys stomach into knots.

Just think how much worse it would be for Savard if theres ever a next time at this point in his career.

The answer seems pretty clear: Savard should seriously think about closing the door on his career -- and the concussions that have marred it over the last two seasons -- while he still has a choice in the matter.

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

Bruins rebound from 3-0 deficit but wind up losing to Caps in overtime

Bruins rebound from 3-0 deficit but wind up losing to Caps in overtime

WASHINGTON -- The Capitals didn't exactly end their overtime victory with a raucous celebration.

No, instead Washington held a players-only meeting, still salty over blowing a three-goal lead.

Nicklas Backstrom scored 1:36 into overtime, helping the Capitals beat the Boston Bruins 4-3 to avert a disastrous defeat Wednesday night.

Justin Williams scored twice and Daniel Winnik also had a goal to put Washington ahead 3-0 about six minutes into the second period.

After Winnik's tally, Washington went over 26 minutes without a shot on goal. Boston dominated the final five minutes of the second period, when Dominic Moore and David Pastrnak beat goaltender Braden Holtby. Colin Miller's power-play score 8:19 into third tied it at 3-3.

Backstrom saved the day, but not the Capitals from feeling uneasy.

"In the second and third period they outplayed," Backstrom said. "We were lucky that we came up with two points. We're not satisfied at all. We're happy with the two points, but not the way we played."

The locker room remained closed for approximately 15 minutes after the win, Washington's second in a row after losing three straight.

"We had a little talking here," said T.J. Oshie, who returned to the lineup for the first time since injuring his shoulder on Nov. 18. "There are some things we've got to clean up. I think it's more of a mentality more than it is the systems or anything like that. ... Once we get a step up on someone, we have to get that mentality that we're going to finish them off."

Evgeny Kuznetsov had two assists for the Capitals and Alex Ovechkin got his first point since Nov. 26.

Boston arrived in Washington 4-0-1 over its last five games with three wins in a row, including a 4-3 overtime triumph against Florida on Monday night. The Bruins outshot Washington 34-20.

"Hell of an effort. We got a big point for us. To comeback from 3-0 against Washington, it's not that easy," Pastrnak said. "Too bad we couldn't get the two points, but in this case the one point is huge for us."

Backstrom patiently waited on the right side before firing the winner past goaltender Tuukka Rask, who entered second in the league with a 1.68 goals-against average. Rask allowed three goals in his previous outing, too.

Williams had two goals over the first 24 games this season, but he matched that total less than eight minutes in against the Bruins. He redirected Kuznetsov's lofted centering pass past Rask for a 1-0 lead just 23 seconds into the first period.

"To be honest it's nice to see the puck go in the net," Williams said. "I've been pressing and working hard. Hopefully this can springboard me to some more production."

Matt Niskanen left with an upper-body injury and did not return. With the Caps down a defenseman, Boston outshot Washington 11-2 in the second period.

"In the second period, we just sort of sat back," Capitals coach Barry Trotz said. "It's hard to protect leads in the league."

The Capitals' second goal also occurred in front of the net. Williams emerged from a scramble with a shot that slithered under Rask.

NOTES: With his 673rd career win, Trotz passed Mike Keenan (672) for eighth place on the NHL's career wins list. ... Williams' first goal was the fastest for Washington since 2012. ... Boston assigned F Noel Acciari to the Providence Bruins two days after the 24-year forward returned to practice. Acciari injured his right leg on Nov. 7. ... Holtby improved to 10-2 career against the Bruins. His first career win came in relief against Boston in November 2010. ... The three-game season series resumes Feb. 1 in Washington.

UP NEXT

Bruins: Host Colorado on Thursday night.

Capitals: Play at Buffalo on Friday night.