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First Round

Bruins' changes for Game 2 against Maple Leafs will include Backes

Addition of veteran forward brings physical element missing in Game 1 loss

by Amalie Benjamin @AmalieBenjamin / NHL.com Staff Writer

BOSTON -- It wasn't just one thing.

The issues the Boston Bruins had against the Toronto Maple Leafs in the Game 1 of the Eastern Conference First Round ran the gamut, from a lack of urgency to lack of physicality to a lack of clean breakouts to poor puck management. Some came down to effort and some to execution.

And for the Bruins, it all needs to be cleaned up, and fast.

 

[RELATED: Complete Bruins vs. Maple Leafs series coverage]

 

"We didn't play a smart enough hockey game," Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy said. "We paid the price."

Fixing their issues was the goal at practice Friday ahead of Game 2 in the best-of-7 series at TD Garden on Saturday (8 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, TVAS).

They knew they had to take a hard look at what had happened, and at themselves.

Cassidy said the Bruins were outcoached and outplayed. The Maple Leafs were better in just about every aspect of the game. Fixing that will take adjustments, which could include everything from simply getting back to the game that got them here to making some lineup changes.

Forward David Backes will play Saturday after being a healthy scratch in Game 1. Forward Jake DeBrusk was off the ice on Friday for a maintenance day and is a game-time decision.

Adding Backes, a slower but more physical player, might not seem to be the answer for a team that looked like it could not keep up to the faster Maple Leafs in Game 1. But Cassidy said being more physical might be the best way to slow them down.

"We made a decision that we had to check fast against Toronto," Cassidy said. "There's two ways to slow down [a fast team], either physically slow them down or you skate with them to slow them down. I thought we'd do a better job checking with our legs, skating, than we did last night."

Video: BOS@DET: Backes gives Bruins the lead with deflection

There's no question that Backes, who said he had a "couple days in a dark place" after he was told Monday that he wouldn't be in the lineup for Game 1, is ready to go. He said his style of play could be effective because speed isn't the only way to counter speed.

"If it were just timing guys on races between the blue lines, maybe I'm not in the top half of the guys that are in this series," Backes said. "But predictability makes guys look fast, and if you're on the same page and you're playing the same game and you're talking and you're communicating, you don't have to wait and read and react, you're already anticipating, you know what your linemate's going to do and you can be there already or on your way. Now, all of a sudden, slow guys look fast."

That's where he sees his impact could be.

"If we stick to our game plan or we're more predictable," Backes said, "we're getting pucks in the softer areas, in the corners, where they've got to break it out 30 times a game and they're eating a little bit of glass back there. Do they slow down themselves and all of a sudden we're occupying the offensive zone more?"

It's something that he thinks could help the Bruins against the Maple Leafs, whether he is on the ice or sitting in the press box, as he was Thursday. It was one of the deficiencies that he saw in his observation of how the Bruins played in Game 1, even though Cassidy acknowledged that the Bruins did have players on the ice who could replicate that part of Backes' game, like forwards Chris Wagner or Noel Acciari, but they were not able to be effective in bringing it.

"Even the [Nazem] Kadri hit on DeBrusk, it's a physical hit. It's borderline," Cassidy said. "We need to get into that mode as well, put them off their game. And that's where the Acciaris and Wagners do bring some of that."

Cassidy saw moments from a few of his players, defensemen Charlie McAvoy and Connor Clifton among them. But it was an area in which he believed his team was missing something.

"The way I've always seen the League is over that seven games you can really wear and beat a team down … and what you do in Game 1 wears on them to Game 2 and 3 and 4, especially in a physicality manner," Backes said. "Maybe that's changed a little bit and I'm antiquated a bit, but they're a very skilled team, we're a very skilled team, and skill-on-skill they made the most of more of their opportunities than we did in Game 1 and they got the win."

There were many things that went wrong for the Bruins on Thursday. There are many corrections that need to be made. It remains to be seen whether, in the 48 hours between the final buzzer Thursday and puck drop Saturday, the Bruins can determine the correct combination to unlock their best while shutting down the Maple Leafs, before they're down 2-0 in the series.

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