David Backes knew since the start of the work week he was going to be on the outside looking in at the Bruins’ lineup for Thursday’s Game 1 matchup against the Toronto Maple Leafs.
A 13-year NHL veteran with 67 playoff games under his belt, Backes understands the nature of the business at this point — with the power forward scratched from regular-season action for the first time since 2007 during a prolonged stretch in January.
But that didn’t make the news any easier to bear at the time for Backes.
”It’s frustrating,” Backes said. “I was told on Monday, so I think I had a couple days in a dark place. But I got over it by Wednesday, wanted to be a supportive teammate and try to help guys prepare and get a win.”
Such wasn’t the case on Thursday, as the Leafs capitalized against a gaffe-prone B’s blue line and general malaise by Boston en route to a 4-1 win and a 1-0 series lead for Toronto.
While costly giveaways and faulty defensive structure put the Leafs off to the races on numerous occasions against Tuukka Rask, the B’s were also frank postgame when noting how Toronto managed to beat Boston at its own game — bullying Boston all across the ice and clamping down on any extended stretches of O-zone time for Bruce Cassidy’s club.
“I think that’s the most physical we’ve seen that group this year,” Brandon Carlo said of Toronto’s defensive effort. “Their guys were stepping up on all of their lines even their more skilled guys in kind of putting bodies on us.”
Outhustled — and perhaps on a more concerning note, outmuscled — on Thursday night, the Bruins have to right the ship in a hurry or risk heading up to Scotiabank Arena in an 0-2 hole.
Backes’ days of being a consistent top-six, two-way force in the NHL might be long gone. But what the 34-year-old winger provides away from the stat sheet might be just what Boston needs to hit back against a confident Toronto club.