Haggerty: These aren't your old Bruins

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Haggerty: These aren't your old Bruins

By Joe Haggerty
CSNNE.com

BOSTON Nobody could be blamed if they were starting to wonder just how trustworthy this edition of the Boston Bruins would be in the playoffs.

After all, the Bruins -- while showing mettle and worthiness -- had suffered gut-wrenching Game 7 losses in each of their last two playoff runs.

This time around, would the big-game ghosts and playoff poltergeists would be too much for a team with plenty of playoff baggage?

While it certainly deserves the caveat that the series against Montreal isnt over and things can change awfully quickly in the Stanley Cup playoffs, the Bruins are looking more and more like a team that isnt living in the past at all.

They kept their composure locked down tightafter losing the first two games at home. They've come from behind on the road. And they've won back-to-back overtime games in forging a 3-2 series lead over their arch-rivals to the North.

It was all encapsulated in Saturday night's 2-1, double-overtime victory in Game 5 at TD Garden that will do down as another chapter in the book of BruinsCanadiens.

It took a lot," said Patrice Bergeron, who looked exhausted after finishing with 28:18 of ice time. "We stayed with it. We kept competing. We tried to tell ourselves we werent tired and I guess . . . we were the more fit of the two teams, because at that point it is just mental.

Its not your body, it's your head. You have to stay with it. I thought we did a great job of that.

The Bruins have displayed equal parts courage, heart and guts in ripping off three straight wins against the Habs. The Bs, who began the season with plenty to prove in the playoffs, finally look like a hockey club thats putting it all together when it matters most.

As does their goalie. Tim Thomas had long since proven hispuck-stopping brilliancein the regular season, but now -- after a 44-save performance Saturday night -- is finally beginning to build a postseason reputation, as well.

The hyperactive Bs goaltender, who experienced exaggerated highs and lows in the first four games of the series, was all kinds of good against the Canadiens Saturday night while elevating the heart rates of everyone on either side of the BostonMontreal fence.

The cross-crease, post-to-post save in double overtime on Brian Gionta during a 2-on-1 break with Travis Moen was the highlight-reel stop of the night for Thomas. The 37-year-old has given up somesucculent rebounds during this serieson Montreal shots, but he made the adjustment by quickening his leg pad whenchances come from the far side.

Thomas has racked up gaudy stats and plenty of awards in the regular season, but true playoff greatness had eluded him until he went into the Timmy Zone for the final 30-plus minutes of an epic double-overtime tilt that will no doubt grow into his signature moment with the Bruins..

Save of the game. Simple as that, said Zdeno Chara of the Gionta stop. It is two-on-one and I think he made a hell of a save.

More than anything else, a Thomas who plays as well in April and May as he does in December and January allows Boston to dream that this year will be different. Just ask Gionta as he continues shaking his head slack-jawed indisbelief.

But Thomas isn't all Boston has going for them.Playoff newcomers Brad Marchand and Nathan Horton powered the offense with the two goals, Patrice Bergeron is back to being a postseason warrior with six points (2 goals, 4 assists) in five games and face-off domination throughout the series. Dennis Seidenberg led the Bs with 38:15 of ice time along with six blocked shots, four hits, five shots on net and has sparkled in alead role as Charas defense partner that's also settled down the other defensive pairings.

It all starts with the kind of physical sacrifice that Michael Ryder unflinchingly made with an unprotected glove save and a beauty -- in the first period on Tomas Plekanec. Ryder even kicked his leg out and threw his gloved hand up with perfect technical style in a nod to his ball hockey days between thepipes in Newfoundland as a kid.In the third period, a sure-fire Montreal goal was deflected from Bergerons backside to Charas leg and away from the net in the type of grit and determination that symbolizes winning playoff hockey and Boston's newfound grace under fire.

Theres no glitz, no glamour. But there is a growing sense of confidence and good feeling.

These Bruins seem faster, hungrier, more experienced . . . and determined to erase Boston's recent playoff history.

And they know how tough it's going to be.

I think weve experienced that last year, right?" said coach Claude Julien when asked about the difficulty of nailing down the fourth win of a series. "We dont want to bring up the collapse against the Flyers after they built a 3-0 series lead, but unfortunately it is what it is. That last win is a tough one, we recognize that. We need to go to Montreal with the intentions of winning that game and playing to win that game.

We need to understand its probably going to be the toughest game of the series. When teams are playing for their lives they come out with their best effort. And we have to be ready for that.

Saturday nights double overtime win was just further confirmation that as Zdeno Chara said, anything is possible for the Bruins this spring.

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

Backes: 'Time will be the judge' on his long-term deal with Bruins

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Backes: 'Time will be the judge' on his long-term deal with Bruins

JAMAICA PLAIN – Newest Bruins forward David Backes has heard the trepidation from Bruins fans about the five-year term of his contract, and he’s probably also caught wind of St. Louis Blues GM Doug Armstrong stating publicly that contract length was an area he was uncomfortable getting to on a theoretical extension with his outbound.

The prevailing wisdom is that the decade of rugged, physical play from the 32-year-old in St. Louis will cause him to start slowing down sooner rather than later, and the last couple of seasons won’t be as high quality as the first couple in Boston.

So what does the actual player think about any questions surrounding his five year, $30 million contract?

The 6-foot-3, 221-pound Backes confidently said that concerns about his age, or him slowing down demonstrably in the last few years of his new contract, are “a bunch of malarkey” to borrow a favorite phrase from Vice President Joe Biden.

“I’m 32, not 52. Time will tell, but I feel really good and I take care of my body. I lay it all on the line, but when I’m not at the rink I’m resting and recovering for the next time I have to pour it all into a game,” said Backes, who logged 727 hard-hitting games all with the St. Louis Blues organization over the last 10 seasons. “Time will be the judge, but I feel like [after] five years I’ll even have a couple more [seasons] after that.

“I don’t think this is going to be end. That’s my plan. I’m still going to get better over the next five years, and hopefully have a couple of opportunities to hoist that big trophy I’ve been chasing around for the last 10 years.”

One area of concern from last season: the 21 goals and 45 points in 79 games for the Blues were Backes’ lowest totals over a full season since his first few years in the league. It might be the first signs of decline in a player that’s logged some heavy miles, or it could be a simple down season for a player that’s always focused on setting the physical tone, and defense, just as much as his offensive output at the other end of the ice.

As Backes himself said, “time will be judge” of just how well the five year contract turns out for a natural leader that will undoubtedly give the Bruins a boost as a hard-nosed, top-6 forward as he moves into the Boston phase of his NHL career.

Thursday, July 28: Will the Bruins end up with Jimmy Vesey?

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Thursday, July 28: Will the Bruins end up with Jimmy Vesey?

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading after a pretty amazing, on-point succession of speeches by Joe Biden, Michael Bloomberg and Barack Obama at the Democratic National Convention last night. It was quite a contrast to the absolute circus sideshow that went on in Cleveland last week.

*FOH (Friend of Haggs) Greg Wyshynksi chronicles the Jimmy Vesey Sweepstakes, and the late entry of the Chicago Blackhawks as a suitor. Wysh still feels, as I do, that the Bruins end up getting this talented player at the end of the day.

*The details of the charges levied against Evander Kane paint an ugly picture of a hockey player doing a lot of the wrong things.

*PHT writer Mike Halford says that the Carolina Hurricanes might be ready to snap their playoff drought after extending head coach Bill Peters.

*John Tavares tells the Toronto media not to count on him ever pulling over a Maple Leafs jersey amid post-Stamkos speculation.

*Well, would you look at this? The Nashville Predators are providing salary cap and contract info on their own team website. What a concept!

*The Edmonton Oilers say they will have a new captain in place by opening night, and it will be interesting to see if they go the Connor McDavid route.

*Brian Elliott is thrilled at the opportunity to be “the man” between the pipes for the Calgary Flames this season after splitting time in St. Louis.

*For something completely different: a great feature on Howard Stern, and his transformation from shock jock to master interviewer.

Joe Haggerty can be followed on Twitter: @HacksWithHaggs

Bergeron and Marchand convinced Backes to join Bruins

Bergeron and Marchand convinced Backes to join Bruins

JAMAICA PLAIN -- For those excited about the idea of an intense, hard-hitting David Backes in a Bruins uniform for the next five years, you have Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand to partially thank.

Backes, 32, didn’t know either of them all that well prior to this summer, aside from his experiences on ice against them. But Bergeron and Marchand called Backes multiple times while recruiting him to Boston, and it was a major factor in the former Blues captain signing a five-year, $30 million deal with the B's.

“Being an outsider, we need to have a little bit of confession here that Marchand is the kind of guy that gets under everybody’s skin. I was no different,” said the 6-foot-3, 221-pound Backes, who has 206 goals and 460 points in 727 career NHL games, all with St. Louis. “But then talking to him a little bit in the interview process prior to July 1, I hung up the phone and had to take a deep breath and say to myself, ‘That little disturber, he’s actually a pretty good guy.’ Those guys end up being the best teammates.

“A guy like Bergeron, when you play against him [he's] always in the right spot, and is never making mistakes. Those types of guys, again, are guys you want on your team, and guys you want to go to war with. They’re All-World players, Bergeron is an All-World player. But he’s also a down-to-earth guy that puts his work boots on, takes his lunch pail and plays his butt off. He’s nice to the young kids, and he’s nurturing in helping them come along. I think you’ve seen in the NHL that you need a few guys on entry-level deals, or a few guys to outperform their contracts, in order to have success in the salary-cap era. That nurturing and mentorship can really foster those kinds of performances.”

While Backes went on to mention Zdeno Chara as another highly respected, formidable opponent with whom he’ll now share a dressing room, it was interesting to note that players who currently have letters on their sweaters, like Chara and David Krejci, didn’t play a part in the recruiting process. Instead it was the next captain of the team (Bergeron) and a player (Marchand) currently in the middle of negotiations entering the last year of his contract.

“I talked to both Bergeron and Marchand twice before July 1," said Backes. "Just the way that they spoke about their team mentality, and teaming up together and sharing the load of hard minutes that need to be played, and also sharing the load of the offensive necessities that a team has . . . those things just rang true to my beliefs of a team.

“You’re all equals whether you’re the top-paid guy, or the top-minute guy, or the low-minute guy, or the guy that’s playing every other game because you’re the healthy scratch in the other games.

“We all needed to be treated equal, and do whatever we can to support the next guy. When the next guy has success, we have to be just as happy as if we scored the goal. That’s the type of thing where, when you get that from the full 20 guys on the ice, it’s so tough to be beat. Those are the teams that win championships.”

It will be interesting to see just how much involvement Backes has with the Bergeron and Marchand combination. He could very easily be a right-wing fit with those two dynamic forwards next season, or he could be a third-line center behind Bergeron and Krejci and give the Bruins elite depth down the middle of the ice.

True to his team-oriented nature, Backes said he’ll be happy to play at either position and do whatever Claude Julien feels is best.