Backes is ready for 'the heightened emotions' of Cup Final vs. old Blues club

Backes is ready for 'the heightened emotions' of Cup Final vs. old Blues club

BRIGHTON – David Backes admitted the emotions are complicated when it comes to facing the team in the Stanley Cup Final that he used to serve as captain during a distinguished 10-year career with the St. Louis Blues.

The 35-year-old almost wishes that the Bruins and the Blues were in the Cup Final in different years so they could both be winners when it’s all said and done. But that isn’t going to be the way it’s going to go down with Game 1 of the Cup Final between the Bruins and Blues set to start next Monday night, and Backes clearly in allegiance with his “new” Bruins team.

“There’s going to be heightened emotions. There’s a binary decision now. It’s either going to be us or them. There’s no third party, no ties and none of that stuff. One of us is going to win the Cup. Either it’s the St. Louis Blues or the Boston Bruins,” said Backes, who has two goals and five points in 11 games during these playoffs while he’s been in and out of the lineup. “It’s the position you want to be in at the end of the year and we’re in that position. I wished those guys well up until this point, but now it’s all about us and winning this thing. All our thoughts are about that.

“It would have been fine to make the Final in different years. We could have each had a shot at it. But now it’s all about what’s in this room. One of my best friends is on that team. [Alex Pietrangelo] is the captain of that team. I told him I love him now and I’m going to love him afterward, but I’m going to hate him for the next three weeks. We’re going to battle our butts off for this ultimate prize. It’s all about what’s in this room, what our goal is and what we need to do to win these games.”

None of it is an easy feat for a player in Backes that bleeds for the hockey club that he plays for, and has done that in buckets for both the Blues and the Bruins over the years.  

Backes expanded on the friendship with Pietrangelo that’s about to go on hiatus for the next few weeks, and Pietrangelo added on Thursday that the B’s power forward already isn’t returning his text messages headed into the playoff series. It all speaks to just how important the chance to compete for the Stanley Cup is to Backes in his 13th NHL season, and at 35 years old he certainly isn’t sure when he’ll ever be back that way again.

He’s also willing to divulge anything he thinks might help with about half the Blues roster still holding over from his time in St. Louis.

“If I’ve got information I think can help us, then I’m going to disseminate it. I don’t know that I have the secret sauce. It’s going to be a battle of wills with both teams very similar in their makeup and very similar in their style of play and very similar in their resiliency,” said Backes. “Both have very good and hot goaltenders. Maybe the difference I see is we have a bigger group of guys that have been to this level, that have been to this stage and competed in this Final extravaganza before. The only thing we’re waiting for now is Father Time to get these games going.”

Not only is that a motivation for Backes finally getting a crack at the Cup, but it’s a motivational item for the rest of the Bruins as well. The time-honored “Win the Cup for [insert veteran’s name here] “ is a narrative that’s part and parcel with every Stanley Cup Final series, and Backes will be the most distinguished and longest-serving NHL veteran in the final series.

“I think he’s got good friendships in that room, but that will all go out the window. Where he is at this stage of his career and in anybody’s really, but particularly him because he’s been through it. He doesn’t know when he’s going to get another kick at the cat,” said Bruce Cassidy. “That will be the biggest motivating factor for him to get his name on the Stanley Cup. It happens to be St. Louis and that’s a great storyline, but I don’t think that’s going to affect his drive. Maybe it will push him a little bit because there are some guys over there he wants to beat given his competitive juices. But I think it’s more about where he is in his career and the opportunity in front of him.”

He’s way too humble and team-oriented to embrace the hype and attention being on him once the Stanley Cup Final gets going, but there’s no doubt that plenty of focus is being on be on the B’s power forward once the puck gets dropped.

It may be a bittersweet development for him, but it’s also in some instances the grandest dream scenario that Backes could have ever conjured up this summer when he was preparing for his third season in Black and Gold. 

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Celtics easily on your device.

David Pastrnak falls short of milestone, but still makes Bruins history

David Pastrnak falls short of milestone, but still makes Bruins history

When the NHL suspended its regular season in mid-March, David Pastrnak's quest for 50 goals was put on hold. 

On Tuesday, that quest officially ended when Commissioner Gary Bettman announced that when the league does resume play, it will jump directly to the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Get the latest news and analysis on all of your teams from NBC Sports Boston by downloading the My Teams App

With 48 goals in 70 games, the 24-year-old budding superstar finishes just shy of the elusive half-century mark, a milestone that no Bruin has reached since Cam Neely in the 1993-94 season.

Overall, five Bruins have scored at least 50 goals in a season: Phil Esposito (5 times), Neely (3 times), Rick Middleton, Ken Hodge, and Johnny Bucyk. With a dozen games left in the regular season, Pastrnak easily would have become the sixth Bruin with a 50-goal campaign if the global COVID-19 pandemic hadn't halted the season.

But Pastrnak was still able to achieve a feat that no Bruin has accomplished since the mid-70s.

His 48 goals are tied with Alex Ovechkin for the most in the NHL this season, meaning the two players will share the Maurice "Rocket" Richard Trophy as the league's leading goal-scorer. Pastrnak becomes the first Bruin to lead the league in scoring since Esposito accomplished the feat in six straight seasons, from 1969-70 to 1974-75.

Pastrnak, who also led the league with 20 power-play goals and tied for the league lead with 10 game-winning goals, becomes only the fifth Bruin who played the entire season in Boston to lead the league in goals, joining Esposito, Bronco Horvath (tied with Bobby Hull in 1959-60), Roy Conacher (in 1938-39), and Cooney Weiland (in 1929-30).

The cancellation of the rest of the league's 2019-20 regular season means that the Bruins also won the Presidents' Trophy for the first time since 2013-14 with a league-high 100 points, while the B's goaltending tandem of Tuukka Rask and Jaroslav Halak claims the Jennings Trophy for allowing the fewest goals in the league this season (167 for a 2.39 goals against average).

Stanley Cup odds 2020: Updated betting lines after 24-team return format unveiled

Stanley Cup odds 2020: Updated betting lines after 24-team return format unveiled

The NHL announced Tuesday a return-to-play plan that will consist of a 24 teams, as well as the format to be used for the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

It was a positive step for sports fans hoping to see the return of live games this summer.

Get the latest news and analysis on all of your teams from NBC Sports Boston by downloading the My Teams App

Given the unique situation surrounding COVID-19, it's difficult (if not impossible) to find a format that benefits all 24 teams fairly. Some teams will benefit more than others, but a return with a different format than normal is still better than the 2019-20 season not resuming at all.

The Stanley Cup currently belongs to the St. Louis Blues, who defeated the Boston Bruins in a hard-fought seven-game 2019 Stanley Cup Final series. These two teams both sit atop their respective conferences and, under the 24-team format, they will automatically earn a berth into the first round of the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs. The Bruins, Blues and the other top-four teams in each conference will play a round robin format to determine their seeding for the first round.

Boston and St. Louis also are among the betting favorites to win the Stanley Cup following the league's return-to-play announcement.

Here are the latest Stanley Cup odds, via William Hill:

The Bruins finished the regular season with the best record and also ranked No. 1 with a plus-53 goal differential. Boston is aiming to become the first team since the 2008-09 Pittsburgh Penguins to lose in the Stanley Cup Final and come back to win it the following season. 

It's impossible to predict how the long layoff will impact these teams, but there are some benefits for the Bruins. They've played a ton of hockey in recent seasons, and the roster as a whole is not a young one. The rest could help, and some of the team's players who were battling injuries before the season was suspended have had extra time to heal. The Bruins' veteran core also has played many years together, and it has loads of playoff experience.

Picking a winner in the Stanley Cup Playoffs is one of the hardest tasks in sports, but if the league is successful in returning to game action, the Bruins will have a great shot to get back to the Stanley Cup Final and win their first championship since 2011.