"Performing" is a term a lot of hockey fans and analysts use loosely. How is this player performing so far? Up until the 2015-16 postseason unfolded, many St. Louis Blues fans complained about the lack of performance from their Captain and center, Davis Backes. He had posted just five goals in 29 playoff games before Game 1 against the Chicago Blackhawks on April 13th.
A little less than three weeks later, Backes is a fucking newly minted playoff hero. John Wayne with an extra rifle. Clint Eastwood with a double barrel shotgun and a month old cigar hanging out of his mouth. He's the man. The C on his chest doesn't represent his grade in the playoffs anymore. It represents his leadership and the guy at the front of the line of a Blues playoff team trying to do something it hasn't it in 46 years. Make it back to the Stanley Cup Finals.
Many people under-appreciate Backes. They think since he isn't as good as Jonathan Toews that his presence in St. Louis isn't needed and should be ran out of town. They forget that Backes is the #1 reason Toews was held scoreless in the first round. They forget that Backes is one of the best defensive forwards in the NHL. He can score 20 goals without being on the top line and doesn't tire easy. Fellow captains hate playing him because they can't get rid of him. They see him during 5 on 5, power plays, penalties and overtime. He's EVERYWHERE!
There are fewer things in this game that are more sexy than Backes literally running over a player on the ice. He may not be as good as Ryan Reaves at lining up the shoulders, but Backes will take a run at anybody. In Game 1 against Dallas, he gave Jamie Benn a potent shove and called him out for a fight. Benn declined but that's what Backes does. He's a pitbull who hasn't been fed enough. He's angry all the time. He's a freight train racing down a track trying to please everybody's expectations and do his job at the same time.
This is his sixth postseason appearance and easily Backes' best. He has two game winners, three goals, three assists and zero penalty minutes. A lot better than last year where he had as many penalty minutes(2) as points. This is a different Backes. Reckless? No. Ruthless? Maybe. Backes is a calm warrior out there. Nothing too extreme. Just the job and what's asked of a captain.
After 206 goals in 727 regular season games for the Blues over 10 seasons in St. Louis, the future is uncertain for #42. He may chase the bigger money and sign elsewhere. General Manager Doug Armstrong could try to keep him here. What he won't do is take any effort home with him at night. Backes gives until it's gone every single night and the results are finally coming at the right time.
On his 32nd birthday Sunday, Backes scored a signature goal for the game winner. He collected a rebound and quickly stuffed it home before Dallas goaltender Anti Niemi could react. That's another one of Backes' traits. The man has silky smooth hands in front of the net.
I'll never forget something fellow Blues scribe Art Lippo told me last year about Backes. When discussing the future captain of the Blues, he said it was important to let Backes keep it in 2015-16. After Barret Jackman left, the team was officially Backes' to lead. That conversation made me smile this past weekend.
After years of Blues fans demanding more from him, Backes has met their demands. How much more can he give? How long will it last? Who knows and who cares? Let's celebrate this newly minted playoff hero.
I salute you Captain Backes. At long last, so should the rest of the St. Louis population that bleeds a little blue in the spring.