Bruins need to add physical David Backes to Game 2 lineup vs. Maple Leafs


BRIGHTON, Mass. – One of the best ways to slow down a fast, skilled hockey team over the course of a seven-game playoff series is to pound them physically with every opportunity. Certainly some of that ancient hockey wisdom has changed as the NHL has evolved into a speed, skill league with less of the rough stuff — even during the Stanley Cup Playoffs — but it still holds true more in a playoff series format than during the long 82-game regular season.

With that in mind, the Bruins should think long and hard about putting 34-year-old David Backes into the lineup for Game 2 on Saturday night. It may end up happening anyway after Jake DeBrusk missed Friday’s practice with an injury suffered when he crashed into the boards in the Game 1 loss, and Backes ended up skating on the third line at B’s practice with Charlie Coyle and Danton Heinen.

But even if DeBrusk is ready to go on Saturday night, the Bruins should still find a spot for the experienced, physical and intense Backes, who brings additional leadership and emotional value in addition to his power forward skills on the ice.

Is there really even an argument that Backes represents a potentially higher impact in the B’s playoff lineup than the forgettable Joakim Nordstrom?

Certainly Backes wasn’t going to argue with any of that even as he was doing his best to be a supportive teammate after watching the Game 1 loss as a healthy scratch.

“It’s frustrating. I was told on Monday, so I think I had a couple of days to get over it and by Wednesday I wanted to be a supportive teammate and try to help guys prepare to get a win,” said Backes, who had his best month of the season in March when he posted two goals, six points and a plus-9 in 15 games while elevating just ahead of the playoffs for the Bruins. “I’m going to be honest separating where the pride ends, and it’s just factual at some point. I’m a prideful guy that’s played a long time in this league and I feel like I can make an impact on games.

“But having said that, I need to be ready when called upon, and not be a distraction or make a negative impact. These guys are an awesome group of guys. If it’s my turn to be in the press box, then I have a couple of Mike and Ike’s and snacks while I watch my teammates and support them getting a win. We’ve been in seesaw series before and we need a great response [in Game 2].”

Cassidy said Backes will be under consideration for Game 2 after the difficult decision to sit him on Thursday night, and that a little more snarl and attitude might be something the B’s could use after a disengaged effort in Game 1.

“I thought about Backes for Game 1, but we made a decision that we had to check fast against Toronto. They’re a fast team and there’s two ways to slow them down. You either physically slow down them, or you skate with them and slow them down. I thought we’d do a better job checking with our legs and skating than we did last night.

“Obviously David adds the physical piece and we’ll have an internal discussion about whether that’s a better plan of action. I don’t think we executed our game plan very well that’s on our staff to get that through. So we’ll see [on Saturday]. You see the Kadri hit on DeBrusk? It’s a physical hit and it’s borderline. But we need to get into that mode as well and get them off their game. That’s where the Acciaris and Wagners come into play with some of that. We need a little more of that in our game when the situation dictates it.”

Certainly if they need a little more of it, then it might make sense to put a little more of it in the lineup for Game 2.

Will Backes make a game-winning impact in Game 2?

He might not, but he’ll also battle with fresh, energized legs after going a week without games. And he’ll be a beast in front of the net, will stand up for his teammates when Nazem Kadri takes runs as he did in Game 1, and he’ll make life uncomfortable for Toronto’s speed crew every time he’s out on the ice with them.

The Bruins clearly need more of that after a Game 1 effort that wasn’t up to playoff-level, and it’s a pretty safe bet that Backes will help them get there if he suits up for his first playoff action on Saturday night. 

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