RALEIGH, N.C. — You can’t fault David Backes for potentially having second thoughts.
After a 10-year career with the Blues — the final five of which he served as captain of the club — Backes inked a five-year, $30 million contract with the Bruins, with the veteran power forward expected to slot into a top-six role and revive Boston’s title window.
Things didn’t exactly go as planned.
Limited to 38 points over 74 games — his lowest scoring totals since his first full NHL campaign in 2007-08 — Backes and the Bruins found themselves back in the playoff picture, but bounced in the first round by the *shudders* Ottawa Senators.
Meanwhile, 1,200 miles west, the Blues advanced to Western Conference Final for the first time since 2001 — eventually coming up short against the Sharks in six games.
For Backes, at that point an 11-year NHL vet with over 800 games under his belt, another golden opportunity to lift Lord Stanley’s Cup slipped through his fingers. Things didn’t get much better going forward.
“Last year it was out in the second round against Tampa Bay,” Backes said. “You don’t know. You don’t know when you’re going to get these opportunities. … Some guys play their whole career and never get this opportunity.”
The 2017-18 campaign saw Backes deal with a bout of diverticulitis, colon surgery and a skate blade to the leg — so it should be a telling sign that the following season brought even more adversity for the power forward.
Limited to just seven goals and 20 total points over 70 games played, Backes primarily found himself slotted into a north-south, checking line in 2018-19 — with most of his 5v5 TOI split between Joakim Nordstrom and Noel Acciari (107 minutes together), as well as Chris Wagner and Sean Kuraly (100 minutes together).
But for the most part, Backes was a man without a line — forming part of 17 different forward combinations that logged at least 10 minutes of 5v5 TOI together during the regular season.
By January, Backes found himself tabbed as a healthy scratch for the first time in 12 years, with Bruce Cassidy occasionally rotating the forward out of the lineup in favor of speedier options at the wing, such as Karson Kuhlman.
The trend carried over into the postseason, in which Backes was forced to watch Game 1 of Boston’s matchup with the Toronto Maple Leafs up at press level — before sitting out for an additional 13 days during both the Leafs and Blue Jackets series.
For a player that competes on the ice with an awful lot of pride in his game, it’s been a tough shake for Backes — who very well could have mailed it in given his lack of regular reps.
But rather than resign himself as a passenger on this B’s club, he took over as one of the conductors of this playoff run — and now stands just four wins away from the prize that has eluded him throughout his career.