Though deep down he probably understands the reasoning why, this has to feel like a swift and furious kick to the junk for Boston Bruins forward David Backes.
The 13-year vet has only called two franchises home during his hard-earned career, but he’ll be suiting up for neither of them as the Bruins and St. Louis Blues face off in a Game 7 for the elusive trophy he’s been chasing for nearly 1,000 gruelling games.
For what should be the shining moment of his life — a chance to compete in a winner-take-all game for the Stanley Cup against the organization he captained for so many years — Backes will be watching from the rafters as a healthy scratch instead.
The Bruins will go with the same forwards group as Game 6, according to head coach Bruce Cassidy, one which included rookie Karson Kuhlman, who scored Boston’s dagger 3-0 goal in that contest, and not Backes, who’s mustered five points while finding himself in and out of the lineup throughout the postseason.
Backes — relegated to a pricey press-box seat cushion for the biggest games of his life — inked a five-year, $30 million contract with the B’s in 2016 and has felt the pressure that comes with such a price tag over a turbulent first three seasons of that deal.
Concussions and injuries, dwindling ice-time, slipping offensive and defensive production and an ever-changing and increasingly less-important role are all things No. 42 has had to deal with during his tenure in Boston. Being a healthy scratch — not one of the 18 Bruins skaters deemed worthy enough to suit up for the type of game only few players ever get to experience — is the latest gut-punch for Backes, it seems.
Now back in the unenviable spot where he began this postseason, Backes was a healthy scratch to start the playoffs before seemingly finding what looked to be a consistent place in Boston’s everyday lineup as it cruised through the Blue Jackets and Hurricanes and battled to a split through the first four games with St. Louis.
In the two contests since Game 4, however, Backes has found himself watching with the other healthies and black aces. His physical contributions and leadership qualities have been admirable as he’s been able to carve out a role that has been useful for the Bruins at times, but with every goal, scoring chance and shot generated being of absolute critical importance with the final series of the season winding down, he’s been deemed obsolete when it matters most.
A big David Backes Game 7 culminating with a win and a Stanley Cup title against the team he captained for five seasons? We won’t be seeing that. Nor will we, or he, be granted with even the remote possibility of the big man writing an even-more story-like ending with an overtime or game-winning tally.
He definitely understands the reasoning. "Whatever it takes,” he said ahead of his second consecutive scratch in Game 6. “If my part is grabbing the pompoms again then I’ll shake those things until all the frills fall out of them."
He’s never been one to say the wrong things, but this decision can’t in any way be sitting well with a notoriously fiery competitor. The only reputation that supersedes his hyper-competitive one, according to many who’ve played with him and know him best, is his group-first mentality and ability to recognize and appreciate where players fit into the mold based on their skillsets and what they bring to the table.
Unfortunately for Backes, both fanbases, and for the sake of emotion-wielding storylines, that role is reduced to cheerleader on Wednesday night.
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