Jake DeBrusk


More signs point to Bruins getting Bergeron, Backes back soon

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Patrice Bergeron is one of the finest two-way centers of his generation, so it makes sense that the Boston Bruins would miss him.

That’s especially true since David Backes has also been sidelined, even if he’s aiming to rebound where Bergeron’s mainly looking to sustain.

While neither Bergeron nor Backes is guaranteed to suit up for the Bruins as they host the Vancouver Canucks on Thursday, there’s some promise in their returns merely being possible, as NBC Sports Boston’s Joe Haggerty notes.

It’s plausible that both might be less than 100 percent when they get back, and Backes might lack some of his power game considering his involuntary weight loss.

Even so, after struggling with Riley Nash in the top center spot, Backes and especially Bergeron serve as the Lebowski rug for the Bruins line combos, tying everything together in a far more satisfying way:

Brad Marchand-Bergeron-Anders Bjork
Jake DeBruskDavid KrejciDavid Pastrnak
Tim Schaller-Nash-Backes
Matt BeleskeySean KuralyFrank Vatrano

Much better. Personally, I’d be tempted to move Vatrano into a better offensive opportunity, but an excess of options for head coach Bruce Cassidy sure beats glaring issues down the middle and in the top nine.

The Bruins might also feel a little more liberated to insert them back in the mix since their schedule is conducive to dipping their toes in the water. It’s pretty light for the rest of October, really:

Thu, Oct 19 vs Vancouver
Sat, Oct 21 vs Buffalo
Thu, Oct 26 vs San Jose
Sat, Oct 28 vs Los Angeles
Mon, Oct 30 @ Columbus

The Bruins could play Bergeron and/or Backes in just two games through Saturday, Oct. 28 and only have them miss two in the process. And so on.

All things considered, it says something about Boston’s system that the Bruins are still close to the top-10 in possession stats, even with a two-way monster like Bergeron among their missing pieces.

As PHT’s Joey Alfieri notes, it doesn’t absolve a 2-3-0 start, as the Bruins faced a relatively friendly schedule.

Still, the schedule is breaking in a way where the Bruins could ideally limit the damage if Bergeron and Backes can recover reasonably soon. Things can change with injuries – just note how optimism can turn to pessimism for, say, Zach Parise – but at the moment, there are some reasons to look at the glass as half-full.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.


Bruins youth movement on display in season-opening win vs. Predators


The Boston Bruins were without veteran forwards Patrice Bergeron and David Backes on Thursday. And yet they still held on for a 4-3 victory over the defending Western Conference champions from Nashville.

This eventually changed with Brad Marchand‘s late third-period goal (and the winner, as it turned out), but for the longest time in this game, the oldest player to score for the Bruins was David Pastrnak. At the age of 21.

He celebrated that birthday in May, right after a breakout 34-goal season that earned him a long-term deal at six years and a total of $40 million. On a night the Bruins were missing two important, experienced players in Bergeron and Backes, it was Boston’s youth movement that came to the forefront with a productive outing.

It started with Pastrnak and his power play blast before the midway point of the first period. That’s a good start for him after entering this season with added pressure thanks to that lucrative deal. It continued with the first career NHL goals for Jake DeBrusk, playing in his first career game with the big club, and Charlie McAvoy, who also had an assist on Boston’s opening goal.

That’s a promising sign for the Bruins, albeit after one game. Bergeron, one of the best two-way forwards in the game, and Backes are important pieces in Boston’s lineup, but when they were not available, the Bruins’ future stepped into the spotlight and delivered against an opponent with high expectations for this season.

And remember, DeBrusk was taken in the first round of the 2015 NHL Draft, when the Bruins management was criticized for a rather curious trio of selections in that opening round — Jakub Zboril, DeBrusk and Zachary Senyshyn — when someone like Mathew Barzal was still on the board.

DeBrusk finished this game with two points. McAvoy not only scored a key goal to expand Boston’s lead in the second period, but he played 22 minutes.

Those are performances the Bruins must be pleased with. Yes, it’s just one game, and the key moving forward will be to get those outings on a consistent basis.

Still, despite some anxious moments at the end, it’s a positive start.