Boston Bruins forward David Backes was the victim of boarding in tonight’s game against the Buffalo Sabres, as William Carrier hit the veteran with a hard, high shot up against the boards in front of the Bruins bench. The team announced shortly afterward that Backes would not return to the game with an “upper body injury”. Carrier will likely face a suspension or fine for the dirty hit.
Backes has been somewhat of an iron man in his NHL career, playing in 72 games or more in all nine of his seasons as a starter with the St. Louis Blues. However, Backes has also had his fair share of concussions as well, with at least two reported in his NHL tenure. Neither kept Backes out of the St. Louis lineup for very long, but now in Boston and on the wrong side of 30, the concussion symptoms can start to pile up, and the Bruins have to worry about long-term repercussions. While it will be some time before we know the full extent of this concussion, expect the team to be cautious with it’s approach. The Bruins face the Sabres again on Saturday, and then New Jersey, Edmonton, Florida, and Carolina to begin the new year. Although no game has been easy for the underachieving team, this is as good a time as any to give Backes some time off. The return of Frank Vatrano has had an instant impact and he can help to make up for a short-term absence of Backes while he rests and recovers. The last thing that Boston wants is to rush Backes back to action only to end up losing him again later on in the season to post-concussion syndrome. With one of the league’s worst scoring offenses and already missing Matt Beleskey until February, the Bruins cannot afford another long-term absence up front.
On a separate note, Bruins defenseman Adam McQuaid tried to return the favor later in the game by jumping Carrier late in the first period. For the second time in as many games, McQuaid was restrained before he could even throw a real punch. If the NHL wants to ban fighting, they should, but instructing the refs to instead instantly break up fights is not the way to go. McQuaid expressed a similar opinion arguing with the linesman that pulled him away from Carrier. In tying up McQuaid, the refs allowed Carrier to get several punches off that were direct hits to the Bruins defenseman and to which he had no chance to respond. McQuaid required stitches as a result. To add insult to injury, McQuaid was also given an instigator penalty and a ten-minute misconduct. The entire ordeal was handled incorrectly and the NHL needs to look into alternative methods of handling fighting.