Elation sets in as David Backes scores in return to the lineup
If success in the National Hockey League was measured on grit, dedication and being an important figure in a locker room, David Backes would be one of the Bruins best.
Unfortunately, for him, that’s not how it goes in the NHL. Instead, success is measured on goals, assists and other on-ice situations, also known as the little things.
Backes tenure in Boston hasn’t been the best of them. Injuries and inconsistency in his production has hampered the former St. Louis Blues captain as he continues to fail on producing the type of offense that his $6 million cap hit warrants.
Concussions have been an issue for Backes throughout his career. If you ask Backes how many concussions he has had, he would tell you it’s a double digit number.
Sidelined since November 2 after a scary head-to-head collision with Ottawa’s Scott Sabourin, Backes didn’t quite know what his future held.
“Two weeks ago I wasn't even skating and didn't know if I was done for my career,” Backes said. “To go through the steps I went through to get a clean bill of health and press back to play and to have that moment, it was special.”
Returning to the lineup Sunday night alone was a special moment for the 35-year old. But scoring what would serve as the game-winning goal, extending the Bruins win streak to seven, made the moment that much more special.
“You could see it on my face, that was elation,” said Backes. “First game back, to get the go-ahead goal with 10 minutes left, to get that opportunity on the power play, I appreciate all those opportunities.”
Backes opportunity to add another memorable moment to the book that is his 14-year career came as the bumper on the Bruins second power play unit. With the pressure tight surrounding him, Backes found just enough open ice inside the right faceoff circle, allowing David Krejci to sneak a pass past the Montreal traffic.
Backes didn’t have much time, nor space, but had just enough of each to send the puck past Carey Price, giving the Bruins their first lead of the night.
“I get credit for it, but you don't understand how small the window Krejci had to put that puck in. There's a guy above me and below me that I have to try to get off and he puts it right where he needs to and Jake [DeBrusk's] got the screen in front,” added Backes. “I appreciate all those other efforts, some of which don’t get recognized as much as the guy who scores the goal. The guys did a lot of work.”
It’s hard to ignore the lack of production Backes has brought in his four years in Boston. But inside the Bruins locker room, Backes teammates will tell you he’s just as important as anyone else that sits next to them on a day-by-day basis.
The support Backes gets from his teammates is something special, and something he genuinely appreciates.
"It's an awesome group of guys, the best group of guys. What we were able to do last year to get to Game 7 of the Finals was no fluke because we genuinely care about each other and we're picking each other up or checking on each other when we're injured or not around the rink. That translates on the ice and what we're able to do,” Backes added.
"Quite a few guys have come up to me and I think they are genuinely happy for my success and that's not always the case in professional sports. We have an awesome group here."
Sunday’s goal was Backes first of the season and his eighth in his last 79 games dating back to last season. For a guy who has a history with concussions like Backes does, you couldn’t blame him if he were to second guess going into a corner, or preparing himself to take a hit along the boards.
But as Backes returns from yet another concussion, he says his thoughts on the ice are of making plays and figuring out what he can do to better help the team.
"I'm able to play with a clear mind and not overthink things or worry about my next hit maybe being my last one," said Backes. "I think I was really able to go out there and play on instincts tonight and felt like I was half a step ahead and was able to influence plays and get sticks in lanes. That's one of those things when you're not thinking is sometimes better than overthinking and I was just out there playing the game."
Backes was able to give the Bruins a lead thanks to David Pastrnak’s 25th goal of the season about four minutes prior.
For a guy who has seen a lot of hockey in his 35 years, what Pastrnak is doing, and the ways he scores goals is causing Backes trouble in trying to find the words to describe Pastrnak's ways.
“He’s playing a video game out there. I don’t know what’s wrong with that guy. It’s so impressive. He’s down the wing, full speed, putting it where he wants to, winding up, off the post and in,” said Backes.
“I don’t have words.”