BOSTON – Looking back on it now, David Backes was probably a little too emotional in his first two games against his old St. Louis Blues teammates.
The longtime Blues captain was perfectly fine in those two games against the team that let him walk in free agency, but the 33-year-old Backes didn’t think he’d really left his imprint on those games like he’d really wanted to. Well, that changed after Backes really gave it to his old team with his offense, heavy hitting and the kind of physical influence he can still will into a game on occasions as in the Bruins' 3-1 win over the Blues at TD Garden on Thursday night.
Backes was finally rewarded with an empty-net goal with 0.4 seconds remaining, but he was a force all night with a game-high eight shots on net and five board-rattling hits that let the Blues know he wasn’t going anywhere.
“I don’t know how many shots I had tonight, but it felt like I was on the cusp quite a few times right around the net where I belong,” said Backes, who played 727 regular-season games in 10 years with the Blues. “With [Jake Allen] out of the net, my eyes were large there at the end, and I was just hoping I didn’t hear that buzzer before it went in the back of the net. “Truthfully it was easier [playing the Blues] this year than it was when they came in last year and the first time I returned to my old building it was difficult and emotionally draining. By the time you got to the building you were almost already emotionally drained playing your old team.
“This time there was that ‘special night’ feeling, but it was also just another game where you’re playing a bunch of your old friends. We needed two points and I was able to be a little more productive, I think, than I was in those other two games. It was another great win for our team, and against that [Blues] team, it feels good.”
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Certainly, it has to feel good for Backes anytime he does well against a Blues team that opted to walk away from him at 32 rather than come anywhere close to the five-year, $30 million contract that Boston offered him in free agency. So now, a proud guy such as Backes is going to have that in the back of his mind every time he suits up against St. Louis, at least as long as GM Doug Armstrong is running the show and Backes still has friends on the roster.
That showed in the way Backes blasted Ivan Barbashev in the first period to set the game’s tone. It was also there as the 6-foot-3, 221-pound forward created havoc in front of the Blues net pretty much all night.
“I think he wanted to make a statement with his old crew there and good for him,” said Bruce Cassidy. “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 [the empty netter was] a little icing on the cake for him, so good for him.”
After a first season of transition with the Bruins, it’s been a very good second act for Backes in Boston that included finally making his mark against his old team with a vintage power-forward performance in a B’s win.