The Boston Bruins are near the end of their 11-day layoff leading up to Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final. In the midst of their near two-week break, they found out who they’ll face.
It’s a team that David Backes is quite familiar with.
The St. Louis Blues, a few days removed from their Western Conference Final victory over the San Jose Sharks, will face a six-day layoff between their Game 6 clincher and Game 1 of the Cup Final. This gave us folks in the media plenty of time to ask Backes about facing his former team in the Stanley Cup Final.
“It’s us or them. There’s no third party, no ties, none of that stuff,” Backes said following Wednesday’s practice at Warrior Ice Arena.
“One of us is going to win the Cup — either the St. Louis Blues or the Boston Bruins — and that’s a position you want to be in at the beginning of the year. We’re in that position and I wish those guys well up until this point. But now it’s all about us and we’re in this thing — and all of our thoughts and all of our efforts are in this room.”
He’s a few years removed from arriving in Boston on a five-year, $6 million AAV contract. His production hasn’t matched the contract’s term — both in length and salary — through his first three seasons in The Hub.
It hasn’t been a total waste, though. The ex-Blues captain added another voice to a veteran-laden Bruins’ locker room upon his arrival. His voice and presence helped a Bruins team in transition as GM Don Sweeney installed a youth movement led by David Pastrnak, Charlie McAvoy, Danton Heinen and Brandon Carlo (to name a few).
But Backes’ third season proved challenging. The power forward saw his point totals dip to a career-low 20 points (7 goals, 13 assists) in 70 regular season games. That forced Bruce Cassidy’s hand at the beginning of the playoffs as he sent Backes to the press box in favor of rookie winger Karson Kuhlman.
The Minnesota-born winger took his first career playoff benching in stride, though. He prepped to stay ready at a moments notice beginning with Game 2 of the Toronto series. And he hasn’t left the lineup since returning against Columbus — after sitting for five games — complimenting David Krejci and Jake DeBrusk on the second line over the last seven postseason tilts.
“It’s been what’s asked of me, and I think that’s the character of our team. Whatever is asked [of them] guys have been willing to do it, and I’ve embraced it,” Backes said. “And I think it served us well to have everyone embracing whatever role they’re in and excelling in them, and we’re able to put the pieces together and play some pretty good hockey in the last two months.”
The camaraderie around the Bruins locker room starts with the leadership group. But everyone, from the ageless wonder known as Zdeno Chara, to the seventh and eighth defensemen in John Moore and Steven Kampfer, provided timely moments during this playoff run.
The Bruins’ depth passed every test through the first three rounds. But their biggest challenge remains beginning Monday against a fascinating Blues squad that began the turn of the calendar ranked dead last in the entire NHL.
“You don’t get to this level or this spot by accident. They’ve been a heck of a team. We’ve got a heck of a team,” Backes said. “We’re going to concentrate on doing what we need to do in this room, and we’ve got an awesome group of guys to do that with.”
Tim Rosenthal serves as the Managing Editor of Bruins Daily. He started contributing videos to the site in 2010 before fully coming on board during the Bruins' Stanley Cup run in 2011. His bylines over the last decade have been featured on Boston.com, FoxSports.com, College Hockey News, Patch and Inside Hockey. You can follow Tim on Twitter @_TimRosenthal.
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