Bob DeChiara/USA Today Sports

David Backes kicked it into overdrive against his former team

Ty Anderson
February 02, 2018 - 10:00 am

Forward David Backes, who traded his Blues captaincy and top-six status in for an industrial-yet-vital role in Boston by way of a five-year deal worth $30 million less than two years ago, showed the Blues exactly what they were missing in Thursday’s 3-1 win.

It was in 18:01 of action, and with an obvious rotation on the left side of his line after an ineffective return to the NHL for Peter Cehlarik, that the 33-year-old Backes took charge of his line and came through with a team-leading eight shots on goal and six hits.

“He played hard, he was motivated, very much he wanted to be a difference maker,” Zdeno Chara said of Backes. “He had a lot of shots on net, he was physical. He’s that type of player that he wants to battle, he wants to go to the net, and that’s his game.”

But it was with the game on the line in the final minute of play, with the Blues just one goal away from forcing overtime, that Backes came up big for the Black and Gold.

Lining up to the right of Patrice Bergeron, Backes denied St. Louis from another sustained offensive-zone attack when he straight-up leveled Brayden Schenn. He then challenged the Blues at their own blue line on their attempted last-second breakout, forced a turnover from Jaden Schwartz, and beat the clock with a buzzer-beating, empty-net dagger.

“I think it shows you what he’s all about,” Bergeron said of Backes’ late-game efforts to help secure the victory. “He’s a team first player and he’s always there to make the little details on the ice to make the other guys look good, and he definitely deserved that one. He had a lot of looks there tonight that could’ve went in, so I was happy for him.”

Despite the wishes of a raucous Boston crowd that would eat single shift of it up, there’s just no way that Backes can be this player for 82 games and be anything close to effective in the postseason (which is why the B’s signed him in the first place). But when that extra pep in Backes' stride is there, it's electric. 

And the Bruins got just that on Thursday. 

Perhaps this was his response to the unpenalized Nick Ritchie hit that left Backes as the bullied on Tuesday. Maybe this was Backes doing his part to put an eight-game goalless drought to rest. Or maybe this was about, as previously mentioned and obvious to anybody watching, showing up your former team in the best way possible.

His coach seemed to align himself with the thinking of the latter, too.

“I think he wanted to make a statement with his old crew there, and good for him,”Bruce Cassidy, who has utilized Backes in a third line role with near-constant success this season, said. “He was a good leader tonight in every aspect. I thought he was around the puck a lot. Their line did a real good job for us, and a little icing on the cake for him [with the empty-net goal], so good for him.”

But the personification of we and not me, Backes instead wanted to keep his postgame comments centered on the next challenge ahead of the Black and Gold.

“The guys really battled it was probably our most complete game where we had to battle and win pucks all over the ice,” Backes said. “They make you play that way or else they are down your throat and not letting you out of your own end. For stretches both ways I thought occupied zones and we threw a lot of rubber at the net. Jake [Allen] made a lot of good saves, in the end we get a power play and that’s the difference-maker.

“Our penalty kill did a good job when they got one with five minutes left or so. Two points against a tough Central Division team that I know pretty well. Hopefully the start of another streak where we put a few [wins] together – but one at a time we’ll enjoy these two points then get ready for our next opponent when we play on Saturday.”

Two points that seem almost automatic when Backes plays like he did Thursday.

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