A rough 2-3 start to the season has left plenty of questions for the Boston Bruins. Some of those questions will be answered over time, others will have to wait.
The Bruins are closer to getting some help, however. Both Patrice Bergeron (lower body) – albeit in a non-contact role – and David Backes (diverticulitis) joined their teammates for Tuesday’s practice at Warrior Ice Arena.
As tough as the start has been for the Bruins, things were equally as tough for Backes and Bergeron. Instead of being out there and helping right the ship, the veteran duo could do nothing but watch as the B’s struggled with consistency through the first two weeks of the 2017-18 season.
“It’s been tough. You know, whatever happens on the ice you want to be out there with the guys and you want to be battling,” Bergeron said following Boston’s first practice after coming home from their first three-game west coast trip of the season. “So yeah it’s tough, especially after the start to the season, but all you can do is stay positive and work as hard as I can to get back as quickly as I can.”
Bergeron, who has skated in some capacity since last Saturday, watched the first five games from the press box with scouts, media scribes and his teammates that were either injured or scratched.
Backes, however, wasn’t anywhere near his teammates until Tuesday. From the hospital bed at Mass General to laying down at home, all Backes could do was watch the Bruins’ slow start from the television screen.
“Yeah beyond,” Backes said about his frustration level during his bout with diverticulitis that included a weight loss of 10 pounds. “Sitting in the bed with a standard definition TV watching the Bruins play the Predators [on opening night] when I can see [TD] Garden from my hospital room, that’s a tough emotional swing to swallow, and then Colorado a couple of times where we should have had better results and just the overall momentum of the game.”
“Watching at home is never easy,” Backes added. “You worked all summer and you feel like you kind of changed yourself a little bit to have a lot of success this season and then to have that false start, to begin with, is kind of hard to deal with mentally. But, I think coming back and having extra energy today, the past is the past and we’ve got to look at what the next step is to be the best player that I can be.”
Even though they’ll have to shake off some rust, the Bruins can use that extra energy from anyone in the lineup.
Through five games, the Bruins have been Jekyll and Hyde. The combination of the youth movement and veteran leadership led them to their wins over Nashville and Arizona. The snowball effect of sloppy puck management and bad decision making in the losses to the Avalanche (twice) and Golden Knights, however, proved that there’s still a lot of work to do in the process of an 82-game season.
One area that’s been troublesome in the losses has been getting bodies in front of the net and creating second chances. That’s where Backes and Bergeron can help whenever they are cleared to return to the lineup – perhaps as soon as Thursday against the Canucks; the first of a four-game homestand on Causeway Street.
“He’s underrated when he gets to the front of the net – especially when Pasta [David Pastrnak] and Marchy [Brad Marchand] are on his wings. It allows him to be creative, so we missed that part of it for him to be there and make plays and finish plays,” Cassidy said about Bergeron and Backes creating traffic up front. “And then Backes is a big body that can certainly create havoc and tip shots. I think in Vegas the other night that was one of the areas that we could have been better at.”
Injuries are part of the game as Adam McQuaid and Ryan Spooner – both of whom did not practice on Tuesday – can attest to after leaving Sunday’s game in Vegas. Some teams are better equipped to handle it than others.
Regardless of the results, the Bruins are better with Bergeron and Backes in the lineup than they are without them.
“To be healthy 100 percent is obviously tough,” Cassidy summed, “but we’d love to be there.”