Morning Skate 511: B's can survive Bergeron loss

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Morning Skate 511: B's can survive Bergeron loss

By Joe Haggerty
CSNNE.com

BOSTON There is a tiny bright side for the Bruins should Patrice Bergeron be missing for the majority if not all of the Eastern Conference Finals against Tampa Bay.

The 25-year-old wasnt a huge factor on the scoresheet against the Lightning in four regular-season games largely due to his defensive responsibilities against the explosive Lightning. He had one assist in four games and was a minus-1 while otherwise getting shut down in his 17 minutes per game against the Lightning, but thats also a big reason why Marty St. Louis was held to two points and a minus-1 in four games and Simon Gagne was scoreless and a minus-5 in three regular season games against the Bs. So much for the Ghost of Gagne haunting Boston after stinging them multiple times upon returning to last years playoffs for the Flyers.But that defensive concentration for the Mark Recchi and Brad Marchand line shouldnt skip a beat with Chris Kelly filling in for No. 37 while he sits out with a mild concussion.Gagne broke Bostons heart with the third-period game-winner in Game 7 last May against the Bs and it looks like hell be ready to go after suffering a concussion during their sweep of the Washington Capitals. If its anything like the regular season, Gagne could be a virtual non-factor just as Bergeron on the offensive side of the puck for four games.On to the links: Many teams including the Bruins are salivating at the thought of Nashville defenseman Shea Weber hitting restricted free agency, but Weber says that he isnt going to anywhere but Music City next year and beyond. CSNPhilly.com writer and FOH (Friend of Haggs) Sarah Baicker wonders if the seven-game battle with the Buffalo Sabres took too much of a toll on the Flyers, and sealed their fate against the Bruins. Truehockey.com writer Andy Strickland reports on the St. Louis Blues beginning contract talks with Patrik Berglund on a new deal as the NHL offseason truly starts to rev up for 25 teams. An amazing ESPN.com E:60 story with Zach Bennett and a minor-league hockey team that will make you smile, cry and hold backan emotional moment. This is why sports can be special to so many people that really need some kind of escape. Pro Hockey Talk maestro Joe Yerdon has a run-down on Jaromir Jagr possibly getting ready for a homecomingwiththe Pittsburgh Penguins . . . it could happen. Brian Burkes son Patrick speaks openly and honestly with James Cybulski and Co. about the disappointing stance of Uptown Hockey Management on same-sex marriage and how understanding most of the hockey world has become. Flyers GM Paul Holmgren disputes reports that Mike Richards failed his Philly teammates and was having issues with the coaching staff through the season. Newsday has the story of the new Islanders arena project that will supposedly keep them stinking out loud on Long Island until 2045. Thats mediocre news for just about everybody. Bruce Arthur with a great column on Sean Avery, who finally may have found the proper home for his agitating nature: activism. Yahoo! Hockey blogger Puck Daddy has a great breakdown of the most intriguing match-up in the Eastern Conference Finals a couple of hockey graybeards between the pipes going at each other.

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.