Brad Marchand – As always. And really, these days we’ve thrown our hands up at his antics, because he can’t help himself. He’s going to score enough for everyone to find a way to justify it, so whatever. But it’s his el foldo against the Blues last spring that we’ll never forgive him for. He says he’ll never get over losing Game 7 at home. We won’t either, asshole. Maybe if you’d reported for duty you wouldn’t have this heartbreak to worry about. Or would you rather just go for a change when things get hard?

The Bias Against Tuukka Rask – Tuke Nuke’em is the leading candidate for the Vezina right now. And yet you’ll find plenty in the Boston media who want Jaro Halak made the starter. It’s been this way for years. If you think Crawford doesn’t get his due here, you should see this nonsense. But hey, it’s Boston, he’s not from Quincy, so is anyone else surprised?

David Backes – The one plus of last spring was Backes having to watch his former team celebrate while he was in the pressbox or trying to be a goon or something. There aren’t many contracts as bad as Seabrook’s around. There’s a kind of symbolism that this is one of them. Maybe more went on in that corner in St. Louis in 2014 than we thought.

Everything Else

If you didn’t see the news on Wednesday, let me help. And if you just want the summary, I can do that as well. Basically, David Backes went to Bruce Cassidy, they talked, both discovered he’s been a lumbering drainage ditch for a couple seasons now, and tried to figure out where to go from there. What they really discovered is that he has no place in the Bruins lineup, because he’s slow and chrome-handed now–along with his brain being a quarry–so they came up with this “role” of enforcer.

There is a lot to peel off here to get to its rotten and rancid core, but I’ll try. By declaring himself an enforcer, Backes is basically saying he has no place in the league anymore. That’s a role, or “role,” that is quickly phasing out of the game, and essentially giving himself this title is a way to duck being waived or save some esteem with muttonheads (of which there’s a healthy population in Boston, admittedly) instead of just retiring. The Bruins don’t have to scratch their $6M paperweight until the playoffs, which will save them having to answer questions that might make some uncomfortable. They’ll still have to buy him out in the summer, because you can’t have someone making $6M only playing three minutes on the roster. That’s a fourth-line spot a kid could use and be productive with. Backes can’t. Really, it’s about saving face here.

Still, the questions with this are no more comfortable. There is just nothing that lies easy about a team either being ok with, or straight up telling, a player that to stay in the lineup they’re going to have to just fight and cheapshot every shift. It’s a black mark on the game and harkens back to an era the league has been trying to forget for decades and long ago died its deserved, ugly death. On a lower level, the Bruins don’t need this, because there’s no one on the team who needs “protecting.” And if there were, Zdeno Chara is around and available to play at least 15 minutes a night in other capacities, and Chara’s grinning face is the last thing you see before you die, as Deadspin told us. The Bruins may think they’re doing Backes a favor by at least letting him go off into the woods to die with a label that conveys at least some heroism, but really they’re making themselves out to be cruel masters, or at least spineless enablers. Then again, this kind of thing can only happen in Boston and a few other locales.

As for Backes himself, we understand that professional athletes are just a different type, and there’s nothing wrong with hanging on as long as you can. But his grip slipped a while ago, and he isn’t some overgrown gnome with a 7th-grade education at best who had to bludgeon his way through juniors and the AHL just to make an NHL paycheck, because there was simply no other path. He is a former All-Star (no, really), Olympian, and Selke finalist. By the time this contract is up with the Bruins, whether he serves it out in their uniform or not, Backes will have made over $60 million. While he may love it, and he may not conceive of what he would do next (though I would bet the Blues would have him on their television coverage tomorrow), there is simply no call for him to put himself in greater danger and jeopardize what comes next for him. While he may fear the abyss of retirement, he certainly has enough money to take the time and training for whatever he might come up with (and he is already a pilot). He has a young family, and in some ways he frankly owes them better than going out there and putting his face in front of fists on a nightly basis.

A real league would have never let the Bruins or Backes use this kind of language, but this is a league that is still utterly terrified of crossing swords with anyone in the “Cherry Army.” But you can’t see any other place allowing a team and player to announce they’re going to spend the rest of the season/career (could be the same) essentially breaking the rules and partaking in actions the league wants to be done with. Who looks good here?

In the end, Backes won’t be at that great of a risk because of the way the game is played now and the time of year. With games that mean something, rare is the player who is going to put his team’s seeding/playoff chances at risk by engaging in bullshit with Backes. He’ll spend most of his time chirping from the bench, which is what he was always best at anyway.

The end is here for David Backes. There are far better ways to accept that than holding onto some warrior badge that no longer exists.

Everything Else

It used to be that David Backes being a shit-gibbon was kind of our little secret. The rest of the NHL looked upon him as the usual “valuable warrior” type, because he was too damn slow to avoid contact and was always around after whistles. Oh, and he captained the Blues, who were too stupid to ever change their game from knuckle-dragging antics and yet were views amorously by various, drunk hockey analysts who longed for the days they could no longer remember thanks to what happened in those days. Backes being the subject of Brent Seabrook‘s fury in 2014, at what was basically the height of the recent Blues-Hawks rivalry, only added to the legend. Surely he must’ve got under the skin of an actual accomplished player like Seabrook!

But with NHL contracts under the greatest scrutiny of any sport thanks to the hard cap, it didn’t take long for Backes to wear out any goodwill in The Hub. Because as he skated around like he had kept all of his rescued puppies’ shit with him, and had to be moved to wing because of it, Bruins fans couldn’t help but wonder how much they were paying this guy. And it’s only gotten worse with just five goals in 45 games this year.

Now everyone thinks David Backes is a waste of space. Everyone thinks he’s a jackass. But we knew. We knew before it was cool. We knew Backes to be the perfect embodiment of why the Blues never went anywhere, too focused on the wrong things and not fast enough. We knew Backes to be so desperate for Pierre McGuire’s cartoon hearts from yapping that he turned Bryan Bickell, who was outscoring him at the time anyway, into a one-man symphony for a game in 2013. We know that Backes only ever won three playoff series in his time in St. Louis, and he had all of 12 goals in 49 playoff games there.

We knew. Now everyone does. It’s not as fun when it’s not your secret, is it?


Game #57 Preview Suite




Douchebag Du Jour

I Make A Lot Of Graphs

Lineups & How Teams Were Built

Everything Else

There’s a lot of weirdness about this Hitchcock farewell tour and the planned succession to Mike Yeo. It’s all very Blues, and it’ll be even more Blues in the various ways it could go totally balls-up.

First off, we know Hitch grudgingly lets his team get up and down the ice, and would rather be coaching the All-Blacks and play that version of hockey. But look at this roster. Where exactly is his beloved jam? Backes and Brouwer headed for the exit, and in came in only David Perron and the only grinding with him is the one that produces smoke coming out of his ears when trying to do any sort of math problem. Lehtera, Tarasenko, now Yakupov, Schwartz (for the five minutes he’s in one piece), Stastny, Jaskin, Robbi Fabbry or Robby Fabbri, this team has much, much more skill than GRITSANDPAPERHEARTFAAAAARRT. Is Hitch going to open up the throttle on this? Doesn’t he have to to maximize what he’s got?

Everything Else

Once again, we were asked to eulogize the St. Louis Blues upon their exit from the playoffs for Yahoo!’s Puck Daddy Blog. 

Slayed the dragon!”

That’s a phrase we’ve gotten used to around these parts. Upon this day when we come to mourn/kick dirt/wildly celebrate yet another Blues playoff exit before anything a banner would be raised for, It’s time to consider that. We heard it five years ago, when another continually good-but-not-good-enough team hellbent on measuring its manhood every shift beat a deeply flawed Hawks team, took the most amount of time to do it, and celebrated as if it was discovered drinking beer gives you superpowers. A team with Cup aspirations screaming out its lungs needing every bounce and break to beat a third-placed team. It was Vancouver then. It’s St. Louis now. That’s some company you keep, Blues.

The Blues told us that triumph in the 1st round signalled that everything was different. This win proved that they’d learned their lesson. No longer was this a disgusting organization run by calculating, ham-handed, born-on-third executives with a section of their fandom doing their best to prove that evolution does not actually exist and become the scorn of the rest of the hockey world.

Oh wait, we’re supposed to be talking about the Blues and not the Hawks. Sorry, back to that.

Everything Else

evil empire at imos blues

Game Time: 8:30PM CDT
TV/Radio: CSN, NBCSN, SportsNet360, TVA-S, WGN-AM 720
If A Urinal Cake Were A Town: St. Louis GameTime

As far as inevitabilities go, the Hawks and Blues meeting in the first round of the playoffs this year is right up there with death, taxes, and David Haugh writing something profoundly ignorant, stupid, and damaging. And with this series, all of the old war horses once again will be trotted out, from the Hawks “turning it on” and hockey followers everywhere from local to national believing beyond a shadow of a doubt that this time it will be different for the Blues.

Everything Else

We keep moving along through the river, well to be more apt this underground garbage fire of a preview that is slowly encroaching on nuclear waste, to the forwards of the St. Louis Blues. And once you get past the first line, it gets pretty automaton, but you probably already knew that. It’s a raft of palookas and hired goons that are meant to make a bunch of sounds flashed on the screen from the Batman TV series (live-action, Pure West, not the cartoon, which I haven’t seen but am told isn’t bad). You know the plan, you know the players, it’s just a question of if the Hawks can execute the plays.

Alex Steen-Jori Lehtera-Vladimir Tarasenko

I’ve spent so long thinking that Alex Steen is just a guy that’s taken about two years for me to pivot and finally admit that he’s a plus forward. Is he really a first liner? No, probably not. But he’s struck up an understanding with Tarasenko that’s become pretty deadly and really Steen doesn’t do anything wrong. He’s always in the right spot making the right play, he just doesn’t do it with any flash so you have to really pay attention to him.

Everything Else

bluestrumpet_jersey vs evil empire

Game Time: 7:30PM
TV/Radio: CSN, WGN-AM 720
Toasted Ravs, Man: SLGT

Tonight’s game between the Hawks and Blues is being labeled a playoff preview by all of the flapping heads around the league, and in one sense, that’s not accurate at all given the number of injuries on both sides that will surely answer the bell this time next week, as well as the fact that this first round matchup is anything but a foregone conclusion. And in that respect tonight already is a playoff game unto itself. Should the Blues gain a single point, they will clinch some form of home ice and the Hawks will be locked into third in the Central. However a Hawks regulation win still keeps them in position for home ice if not the division, depending on the outcome of Stars/Avs. The Hawks would still need some help from the Preds and/or Capitals on Saturday, but they still have to close out their regular season home schedule properly tonight to give themselves a chance.

Everything Else

evil empire at bluestrumpet_jersey

Game Time: 7:00PM Central
TV/Radio: NBCSN, TVA-S, WGN-AM 720
Literally A Fucking Radioactive Trash Pile: St. Louis Game Time

Because literally nothing John McDonough and Jay Blunk do is on accident or by coincidence, the NHL’s quiet announcement that they have concluded their “investigation” of Patrick Kane and have predictably found nothing calls into question a couple other media blips over the past 24 hours.

First, yesterday afternoon the geniuses running the Hawks’ social media department thought it was important to include Patrick Kane and his mother in a tweet acknowledging International Women’s Day, which is insulting and disgusting. And today it leaked that Sports Illustrated will be doing a (regional) cover story on just how much Garbage Dick has had to overcome this year on his way to being the league’s leading scorer and a Hart Trophy front runner. Because John McDonough is very good at his job, these events are not to be viewed as anything other than deliberate and connected.

And the purpose of it is potentially two-fold. At the very least, with any bureaucratic loose ends now tied up with the conclusion of the NHL’s farce of an investigation, which allows McDonough and Blunk to start building a ground game and controlling a narrative ahead of what they figure to be a bright and direct spotlight once again on this team into May and June. The second more stomach-churning purpose is for a potential Masterton Trophy nomination, the NHL’s perseverance award for which every team submits its candidate. It would be a tremendously nauseating and ballsy move on their part, considering recent winners include a widower, a bereaved father, and an MS sufferer. But John McDonough is known for big moves after all.

[extremely sportsy radio host voice]….just like tonight’s big rivalry night tilt in St. Louis between the Blues and Hawks!