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.
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