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Admiral’s Mailbag: Why David Backes has been worth money for Bruins

11.17.16 at 10:29 am ET
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David Backes has earned his money this season. (Eric Bolte/USA Today Sports)

David Backes has earned his money this season. (Eric Bolte/USA Today Sports)

Today’s column is a mailbag comprised of questions received via Twitter and/or email. For future pieces, questions can be sent to:letitbleedrearad@gmail.com or @RearAdBsBlog. Please include name and city/town:

Has David Backes been worth the $6M (cap hit) so far this season? —- Todd, Quincy

Absolutely. The physical, grinding forward has 3-4—7 totals in 11 games and has brought the intensity and effort that are the trademarks of his game. His .64 points per game is third on the team behind David Pastrnak and Brad Marchand. Additionally, his leadership during the game and in the room has carried with it a dose of accountability that had perhaps been lacking. Money well spent thus far.

Can Tuukka Rask continue playing at this pace? —- Jimmy, Winchester

If there’s one position in hockey where a guy can keep up a seemingly torrid pace all season, it’s goalie. Rask has come flying out of the gate with Vezina-like numbers (10-1 record, 1.54 GAA, .945 SP, and three shutouts) and might be playing the best hockey off his career right now. Though he might have a hiccup at some point, expect Rask to challenge Montreal netminder Carey Price for year-end hardware.

Who has been the biggest surprise this season? —- Ronnie, West Roxbury

This is an easy one: defenseman Brandon Carlo. Though he came into camp as one of the team’s better prospects, it’s still a very pleasant surprise just how seamlessly the teenager has fit in. Playing alongside captain Zdeno Chara, Carlo’s mistakes have been rare and he’s more resembled a steady vet than a 19-year-old kid just 16 games into what should be a nice long career. Like most rookies, it’s expected he’ll hit the proverbial wall at some point. But given what we’ve seen so far, I’m expecting Carlo to simply scale the wall and keep doing what he’s doing.

Who or what has been the biggest reason for the Bruins success so far this season? —- Dave, Arlington

Rask’s goaltending is the obvious answer given his play (though Brad Marchand essentially carried the team early on). But one guy who should get more credit for the results thus far is Claude Julien. Claude’s steadying hand has kept the team on an even keel and, after some early bumps, has been seemingly been pushing every right button. There’s been no talk about ‘short leashes’ since before the season started and it’s clear the team is playing for their coach. Some day, he’ll get the respect he warrants in this town.

Patrice Bergeron has just two goals and two assists so far in 13 games. Should we be worried? —- Patti, Plymouth

Nah, nothing to worry about here despite the five straight games without a point. Bergy’s numbers will come around. He started the year hobbled due to his injured foot acting up and needed a few games to get up to speed. Though he has points in just three of 13 games, Bergeron is back to playing his standard high-end game and his offense will soon follow.

Five best commercials involving Bruins

11.16.16 at 4:54 pm ET
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Tom Brady isn't the only New England athlete to star in some killer commercials. (Winslow Townson/USA Today Sports)

Tom Brady isn’t the only New England athlete to star in some killer commercials. (Winslow Townson/USA Today Sports)

By now, you’ve seen the new Foot Locker commercial featuring Tom Brady and some subtle jabs at Deflategate. And if you haven’t… well, I refuse to believe that, because you live in New England and therefore are incapable of not thinking about or Googling either Tom Brady, the Patriots, and/or Deflategate at least six times a day.

Seriously, you’re not fooling anybody.

The Week of Greatness ad is just the latest spot featuring the best quarterback of all time, but far from the first. Everybody remembers when he lost his damn mind when he just went looking for some Under Armour, and when he worked as a telemarketer.

But what about the city’s hockey team?

Surely there’s been some commercials featuring members of the Black and Gold — and no, those godawful World Cup of Hockey commercials do not count — over the years, no? Right you are.

With the help of YouTube, here’s a look at some of the best commercials featuring members of the Bruins.

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Defenseman Kevan Miller joins Bruins on road trip

11.16.16 at 12:50 pm ET
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Kevan Miller

Kevan Miller

On a long three-day layoff between games ahead of their road trip finale against the Wild on Thursday, the Bruins welcomed another body back to the ice on Tuesday with the return of defenseman Kevan Miller.

Injured with a minor knee ailment in the preseason, and then shelved with a fractured left hand suffered in the preseason finale — one that was expected to come with a six-week recovery time — Miller’s participation in practice is just the first step of many in an eventual return back to the lineup.

“He’s back skating with us, so he’s coming around,” Bruins coach Claude Julien said after Tuesday’s practice. “Still not fully cleared for anything, for full contact and all that stuff, but he’s good enough to practice with us.”

The Bruins began a rotation of sorts with their defense before Miller even joined the team for practice, as Sunday’s win over the Avalanche came with a healthy scratch for Colin Miller, who has just one goal and an assist in 15 games this season, while Joe Morrow moved into the lineup for the first time since Oct. 22 and John-Michael Liles shifted over to the right side on the club’s third-pairing.

Signed to a four-year, $10 million extension last spring, who Miller bumps out of the mix remains to be determined.

The 29-year-old Miller, a frequent partner for B’s captain Zdeno Chara, established career-highs across the board in 2015-16, with five goals, 13 assists, 18 points, 64 shots, 164 hits, and 123 blocked shots.

An undrafted talent out of Los Angeles, Calif., Miller played his college hockey with the University of Vermont, and has totaled eight goals and 31 points in 159 games for the Bruins since the 2013-14 season.

 

Ex-Bruins defenseman Dougie Hamilton on trade block?

11.14.16 at 8:51 pm ET
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The Flames are reportedly taking calls on defenseman Dougie Hamilton. (Sergei Belski/USA TODAY Sports)

The Flames are reportedly taking calls on defenseman Dougie Hamilton. (Sergei Belski/USA TODAY Sports)

Defenseman Dougie Hamilton wanted out of Boston. Bruins general manager Don Sweeney granted his wish, too, with a draft day trade that sent Hamilton packing to the Calgary Flames for three draft picks (one 2015 first-round choice and two-second round choices) in 2015.

Now, less than two years into his tenure with a new organization, it’s the Flames that may want out of Hamilton.

Mired in a four-game losing streak, in 29th place in the NHL and with a league-high 59 goals allowed through 16 games this year, the Flames are an undeniable mess, and Hamilton has failed to be the star they thought they were getting from the Black and Gold in that trade (the Bruins used the picks acquired in the trade to draft forwards Zachary Senyshyn and Jakob Forsbacka-Karlsson, and d-man Jeremy Lauzon).

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Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask named NHL’s First Star of Week

11.14.16 at 1:50 pm ET
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Tuukka Rask was named the NHL's First Star of the Week. (Bob DeChiara/USA TODAY Sports)

Tuukka Rask was named the NHL’s First Star of the Week. (Bob DeChiara/USA TODAY Sports)

Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask’s near perfect season continued on Sunday night with a 21-save shutout against the Avalanche.

It was the perfect cap to a stellar week of hockey for the 29-year-old netminder. And it came with a deserving-albeit-minor Monday morning accolade for the B’s ace to hang his signature mask on, as the National Hockey League has announced that Rask who has been named their First Star of the week ending Nov. 13.

In a week of hockey in which the Bruins jumped up to second place in the Atlantic Division, Rask went a staggering 4-0-0 with an 0.75 goals against average and .970 save percentage.

Rask started his week with a strong 32-save shutout over the Sabres at TD Garden on Monday, needed to stop just 15-of-17 for a win over the Blue Jackets on Thursday (Rask actually stopped 15-of-16, too, but Colin Miller’s own-goal counted against No. 40), and then came through a monstrous back-to-back performance against the Coyotes and Avs in which Rask stopped all but one of the 52 shots thrown his way — a power-play goal by Radim Vrbata — between the two clubs.

Rask is now 10-1-0 on the year overall, and his 10 wins are tied with the Canadiens’ Carey Price for the most in the league. Only Price (.957) and Wild goaltender Devan Dubnyk (.947) have posted a better save percentage than Rask’s .945 this season, too. And only Price, at 1.40, has a better goals against average than the 1.54 Rask has posted through the first month of the season.

Rask and the Bruins are off until a Nov. 17 road head-to-head with the Minnesota Wild.

5 Things We Learned in a strong finish to brutal week of hockey for Bruins

11.13.16 at 10:00 pm ET
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David Krejci scored the game-winning goal in a 2-0 win over the Colorado Avalanche on Sunday. (Ron Chenoy/USA TODAY Sports)

David Krejci scored the game-winning goal in a 2-0 win over the Colorado Avalanche on Sunday. (Ron Chenoy/USA TODAY Sports)

Apparently, the Bruins will rest when they’re dead.

And they’re far from dead.

In the final game of a brutal five-game-in-seven-day stretch, the Black and Gold put forth perhaps their most dominating effort to date, with a season-high 45 shots on Avalanche netminder Semyon Varlamov, while Tuukka Rask recorded his third shutout of the year (the 33rd of his career) behind a 21-stop night in a 2-0 win at the Pepsi Center.

B’s center David Krejci opened up the game’s scoring with his second goal of the season, scored 9:30 into the first period.

It would hold as the lone goal of the opening frame, and the only goal through two periods of play for that matter, as the Bruins unloaded on the Avalanche with a 23-shot second period that would have been real ugly for Colorado had it not been for the calm and relaxed presence of Varlamov in the Avalanche net.

Similar to last night’s nailbiter against the Coyotes, the Bruins were forced to cling to life to their one-goal edge, especially when Brandon Carlo, one of the club’s go-to killers, was sentenced to the box midway through the third period, but like they did all night, the Bruins continued to frustrate an Avalanche squad that never put more than seven shots on net in any period.

The Bruins finally gained breathing room with 27.2 seconds left in the game courtesy of Dominic Moore’s fourth goal of the season, an empty-net goal, to give the Bruins the 2-0 final they left the ice with.

With the victory, the Bruins finished this marathon week with 8-of-10 points, and were just 63 seconds in Montreal away from making it a 9-of-10 week at the very least. Also: the Habs are off to a straight-up ridiculous start, so perhaps it would have been best to chalk that one up at a schedule loss, anyways. In a week that could have gone so, so bad and come with a billion excuses — some of which would have been valid with multiple back-to-backs — the Bruins found a way to not only win, but not stoop down to the level of their opponents. That’s more than we could say about these B’s clubs over the last two years, by the way.

Here are four other things we learned in the win.

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Bruins make couple of lineup changes for game vs. Avalanche

11.13.16 at 6:38 pm ET
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Joe Morrow

Joe Morrow

On the second leg of a back-to-back that began with Saturday’s 2-1 victory over the Coyotes, the Bruins will take to the Pepsi Center ice against the Avalanche with a couple of minor tweaks to their lineup.

On defense, Joe Morrow will draw into his first game since Oct. 22.

The 23-year-old Morrow has yet to record a point this year, and finished with a minus-2 rating and four minutes in penalties in his last game. Morrow, a former first-round draft choice by the Penguins in 2011 (23rd overall), has skated in 50 NHL games to date, and has tallied two goals and eight points, including a career-best seven points in 33 games last season.

With Morrow in, Colin Miller will take a seat as a healthy scratch. A fixture on the Bruins’ third pairing with John-Michael Liles, Miller has one goal and two points in 15 games this season.

Up front, Sean Kuraly will draw into action for the second game of his NHL career.

The 23-year-old Kuraly finished the his NHL debut — made in a shootout win over the Lightning on Nov. 3 — with a minus-1 rating, one shot attempt, and an 0-for-2 mark on faceoffs.

Kuraly will take Tim Schaller’s spot on the B’s fourth line.

For the second night in a row, Tuukka Rask gets the call in the net.

The 29-year-old stopped 31-of-32 on Saturday, and is a ridiculous 6-0-0 with a .952 save percentage in six road games this year. Rask has also allowed one goal or fewer in six of his last nine starts, but has zero wins and a .928 save percentage in five career games against the Avalanche. The Avs are the only team that Rask has yet to beat in his NHL career.

The Avalanche counter with Semyon Varlamov.

Here are the expected lines and pairings for the Bruins

Brad Marchand – Patrice Bergeron – David Pastrnak

Ryan Spooner – David Krejci – David Backes

Matt Beleskey – Riley Nash – Austin Czarnik

Sean Kuraly – Dominic Moore – Jimmy Hayes

Zdeno Chara – Brandon Carlo

Torey Krug – Adam McQuaid

Joe Morrow – John-Michael Liles

Rask

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