Notes: Kelly proves his worth to the Bruins

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Notes: Kelly proves his worth to the Bruins

By Joe Haggerty
CSNNE.com

BOSTON Chris Kelly was a punch line in March and parts of early April.

The joke was usually something along the lines of, The Boston Bruins gave up a second-round pick for this? It was most often uttered by those picking apart Bostons affinity for two-way centers with playoff experience.

Kellys biggest sin in their eyes: He wasnt a flashy offensive playmaker like the man he replaced, the injured Marc Savard.

But Kelly and Peter Chiarelli, who traded for hin, are getting the last laugh. The former Ottawa Senator forwards postseason chops (43 games) are shining through when it matters most. Kelly capped off an excellent seven-game series against the Montreal Canadiens with a third-period goal that could have been the game-winner before it was wiped out by a P.K. Subban power-play score.

When Kelly first came to us, and same with Rich Peverley . . . I mean, those guys are trying to fit in and at one point it looked like, 'Are these were the right guys?' But Chris Kelly has been such a good player, said coach Claude Julien. We made the switch with Peverley at center and he was more speed and be a little bit more comfortable, and Kells has played both. Hes adapted so well.

Not only has hes been good production-wise, but hes such a reliable player. He does all those little things right. Not very often you see him make a mistake that turns into a scoring chance for the other team. Hes become very vocal as well. He felt very comfortable in that dressing room and even on the bench. I hear him talking a lot, and he certainly keeps guys in line.

Kelly, 30, finished his first Bruins-Habs playoff series with six points (three goals, three assists) in seven games. Combine his offensive production with his two-way defensive abilities, the chemistry he has achieved with Michael Ryder and Peverley, and his veteran leadership voice within the locker room, and you have a very valuable playoff role player.

Every year the teams are different, there is a bit different makeup, said goalie Tim Thomas. Chris Kelly has probably been in different Game 7's with Ottawa. I think his experience showed this series. He was one of our best players."

Thomas would be shocked to know that Wednesday night was Kellys first NHL experience with a Game 7, but wouldn't be shocked to know that this sort of pressure doesn't bother him. Kelly is the kind of solid, grounded forward that can fly under the radar during the regular season, and then flash during the playoffs.

His third-period goal came after he dumped Roman Hamrlik with a heavy hit while gaining the zone. While Hamrlik flopped and squirmed on the ice looking for a penalty, Andrew Ference grabbed the loose puck and fired it at the Montreal net. Kelly hopped out of the way of the hot shot as it headed toward Carey Price, and then the Bs forward popped home the rebound when the Habs goaltender couldnt absorb the puck.

Kelly hasnt scored a single goal from outside 10 feet of the painted area during the playoffs, but thats exactly where the vast majority of the postseason goals are manufactured.

Ference couldnt help but marvel at how close the BruinsCanadiens playoff series was between the two archrivals.

The thing that sticks out this series is how close every game has been, said Ference. I think some of the Canadiens players touched on it after our overtime game here. Its really just been a matter of bounces."

This was the third playoff meeting between the teams in the last four years. Ference has been around for all of them.

"I think the first time we played them, we were a real underdog," said Ference, referring to the 2008 matchup when Montreal was seeded first in the East and the Bruins eighth, though the B's pushed the Habs to seven games before falling. "It was the first time we made the playoffs in a long time.

The second time around we had a killer year and obviously did very well " he said of the 2009 meeting, in which it was Boston seeded first and Montreal eighth and the Bruins swept the series in four.

"This year it feels the most even of all of them and I think the games have definitely proven that right. Its been really tight, very even and good playoff hockey. I mean every team has earned their wins. Mark Recchi reached several playoff milestones when he rifled home Bostons second goal of the first period.

Recchi became the oldest player, at age 43, to score a goal in a Game 7 of the Stanley Cup playoffs. The goal was also Recchi's 57th in his playoff career, which moved him into a tie with Cam Neely for 36th on the NHL all-time playoff scoring list.Yeah, thats what happens when you're 50. You are going to get those things, Recchi said with a smile on his face. Its good, you know I thought it was going to be a big goal. We really came out and had some momentum and we really jumped on them right away. I give them credit: they battled and their power play got them back in the game and then they scored a short-handed goal. But we were resilient. They were resilient. It was a heck of a series, it was fun to be a part of. A lot of tradition with these two teams, they are a classy organization. The Bruins are a classy organization. Its just a fun rivalry, we are just glad we ended up on this side of it this time.

The Game 7 records for Bruins players and their head coach prior to Wednesday nights series finale: 13-41. The Game Seven records for all Habs players and their head coach prior to Wednesday nights game: 44-17. So much for statistics and past history being anybodys guide.

Ex-Boston goalie Reggie Lemelin was the honorary Bruins captain. He gave his customary Lemelin fist pump before getting the giant Bruins flag started on its journey around the lower bowl section of the crowd prior to puck drop.

Tyler Seguin and Shane Hnidy once again were the scratches for the Bruins after taking part in the pregame warm-up.

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

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.

Backes introduces Bruins fans to his 'Athletes for Animals' charity

Backes introduces Bruins fans to his 'Athletes for Animals' charity

JAMAICA PLAIN -- David Backes probably could have opted to have his introductory press conference inside the Bruins dressing room at TD Garden, or maybe even in some finished part of the team's new practice facility in Brighton, which is set to open a couple of months from now.

Instead, the new Bruins forward met face-to-face with the media for the first time while taking a tour of the MSPCA and, in the process, introducing Bruins fans to his “Athletes for Animals” charity, a foundation that promotes rescuing -- and protecting the welfare of -- homeless pets nationwide.

Backes took pictures with a pit bull named Greta that’s been at the MSPCA Adoption Center for the last seven months looking for a “forever home”.

And as he spoke, it became abundantly clear that this is what the 32-year-old former St. Louis Blues captain is all about.

“[Taking a tour of the facility] gives you a warm feeling inside, and makes you feel like you’re already a part of the city while helping give some attention to the great work that they’re doing,” said Backes, the owner of four dogs (Maverick, Rosey, Marty, Bebe) and two cats (Sunny, Poly), who is house-hunting in Boston this week with his wife and 13-month-old daughter.

“Hopefully this will be just the beginning of our connecting with the community, and helping serve the people that are great fans of the Bruins and that will be watching us every night. [Hopefully] they’re watching us go on deep playoff runs year after year.”

Backes’ efforts with rescue animals gained national notoriety when he took time to help with the stray dog situation in Sochi, Russia during the last Winter Olympics. But the roots of his “Athletes for Animals” charity goes back to his college days at Minnesota State University, Mankato.

“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," he said "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.”

For these reasons alone, Backes is a great fit in Boston. The Bruins donate heavily to the MSPCA and were one of the first NHL organizations to come up with the Pucks ‘N Pups calendar, which each year features Bruins players and their dogs, or strays from the MSPCA, to raise money for the animal welfare organization.

To learn more about Backes’ organization, “Athletes for Animals,” visit http://athletesforanimals.org .