David Backes gets a shot on second line
During his tenure as a Boston Bruin, David Krejci has played his best hockey when on a line with a power forward. Guys who can grind it out in the corners, win pucks battles, use their big bodies to create space and more importantly, score goals when Krejci puts the puck on their stick.
Looking at the Bruins roster for someone who fits that description doesn't yield any sexy results, but the resume of David Backes is as close to fitting that role as the Bruins currently have.
After players like Joakim Nordstrom, Danton Heinen, Anders Bjork and Ryan Donato all have failed to earn a consistent role on the second line with Krejci and Jake DeBrusk, head coach Bruce Cassidy is hoping that the role Backes has played in the past can come back to life and give the Bruins a more well-rounded top-six.
In his first audition in the role Saturday, Backes did enough to earn himself another shot in a top-six forward role. A role that he gets paid to be in.
In his first game back from serving a three-game suspension, Backes fit in pretty well with Krejci and DeBrusk, scoring what ended up as the game-winning goal.
Backes was happy with the goal, but admitted that things could have gone better.
"Obviously we got the goal, but if I’m going to be self-critical, I think there are pucks against the wall, o-zone possessions, maybe a little bit better plays, make a few more plays and get pucks out of our zone," Backes said.
The Sabres lone goal was a result of a poorly timed line change as the Bruins were caught changing as the Sabres raced the puck into the Bruins zone.
The line that exited the ice during the bad change? Backes and his mates.
'So, you know, the goal they score is kind of a result of a bad change by our line and you know, myself included – probably as a right wing I have to hold there but I’ll own that and we get the two points as a team," added Backes. "Two points aren’t easy to get in this league and we found a way."
Backes has four goals and 11 points in 34 games this season. Since signing with the Bruins, Backes has been extremely disappointing, especially for a player who comes with the $6 million cap hit that he does.
But Backes' play on Saturday was a reminder of what Backes use to be, and what the Bruins thought he would carry to Boston with him when he signed a five-year deal in the summer of 2016.
Backes had a massive net-front presence, was using his size to win puck battles, and had five shots on goal. All things that have for the most part, been missing from his game in Boston.
"Well, he scored the winning goal, so that’s a plus. Got a shot, returned to d-zone the right spot, fortunate the puck found him, was able to bury it," said Cassidy. "He goes to the net for that group. It’s hard to say in one game. He played with Krech [Krejci] before now it’s been probably at least a year or a year and a half, so we’ll see how it plays out."
The Bruins two biggest needs are roles that Backes should have filled: second line right wing and third line center. But instead, it's been inconsistencies and a handful of unfulfilled roles thus far.
One good game for Backes won't change the misfortune that has been Backes' tenure as a Bruin. But it was nice to see Backes dig into the bag and pull out what has made him successful in the past.
Despite consistent 20+ goal seasons during his days in St. Louis, it's hard to see Backes get back to the consistency he brought during his 10 seasons with the Blues. But if Backes is going to give the Bruins some magic on the second line, they should take it and run with it.
Run with it for however long it may last.