For some reason, the Boston Bruins will be adding David Backes to their Game 2 lineup tonight against the Toronto Maple Leafs. The Leafs really need to not step into his wheelhouse and play the kind of game that he wants them to.
This isn’t to make healthy-scratch David Backes seem like a psychological assassin, but everyone can see that he is going to pull something early in this game to try to “get his team together/motivate his teammates”. An ugly high stick, a dirty hit, mouthing off to Nazem Kadri for some reason — Backes might try them all.
The notion that this will somehow unite his team and play better against this skilled Leafs team is pure idiocy. He might end up with a suspension, which would actually help the Bruins (because he is bad), but that wouldn’t help his team get the puck behind Frederik Andersen.
Backes is a player that just a few months ago injured Blake Coleman with a disgusting blind-sided hit to the head.
It’s in his blood. As a Bruin for the past two years, he has already been suspended a total of six games for two different instances, the Coleman hit above and a hit against Frans Nielsen just last season. He has a dirty past and will most likely attempt some sort of big hit to “spark” his team.
The key to all this is for the Leafs to not react. In a Leo Komarov-esque fashion, this team would just need to walk away from any scrum or deal with any physical opportunity with a calm approach. Not saying that they will just ignore everything, but to not go down that rabbit hole of hit after hit.
Even though the Leafs didn’t seem to be that fast and speedy team later in the season, Game 1 went completely that direction and the Bruins seemed slow. Now they’re getting much slower and immobile with the addition of Backes. Since he was a healthy scratch for Thursday, this is clearly a tactic by Bruce Cassidy to try and add some physicality or “edge”.
Meanwhile, the Leafs actually accrued more hits (33-31) during Game 1 and was still able to completely dominate in most categories. There’s no connection there, but when the Leafs are more physical, I guess you just have to bring in some ham-headed old dude.
This Butterball hockey player had only seven goals and 20 points in 70 games this regular season. He won’t do much other than shove his mug into scuffles along the boards.
He will bring some “oh right, he signed with the Bruins” memories and build on his forgettable nature, but that doesn’t mean that David Backes will not fill this team with a level of hate. They might react, they might even instigate, but what they cannot do without getting some sort of backlash is go into the consistent role of physicality.
To dive into that quicksand of grit, the Leafs would be playing right into Backes and the Bruins’ hands. Going into the speed that they want to play at and the mentality that they want throughout Game 2 and this series. Ignoring it, they would force the Bruins to go into their territory and as we saw in Game 1, that is a space Boston does not want to live in.
Quick pressure on the blue line, breakout passes that hit the rushing winger, this can be a Leafs team that will completely destroy any notion that you need to increase physicality in the playoffs.
For the Leafs to win this game or series, it won’t be based on how physical they are. They will continue to outplay and outskate the opposition and make them look like fools. So make the head coach look ridiculous for putting in some overpaid old forward to try and beat the Leafs.