David Backes will watch Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final from level nine at TD Garden.
It’s a bittersweet reality for the 35-year-old, especially since the only NHL teams he’s ever known — the Boston Bruins and St. Louis Blues — will battle on the ice while he remains sidelined as a healthy scratch.
“I’m trying to gather that myself,” Backes told The Athletic this week when asked to describe his emotions given the situation. “It’s complex.”
It sure is.
Backes spent 10 seasons with the Blues before signing with the Bruins ahead of the 2016-17 campaign. He hasn’t been the same player since joining Boston, but there’s no shortage of respect in the B’s locker room for Backes, who has constantly put the team first throughout his three-year tenure in Black and Gold.
The Bruins began their playoff run without Backes, as he was the odd man out when Boston opened its first-round series against the Toronto Maple Leafs. But Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy quickly turned back to Backes for Game 2, which proved to be a wise move given the energy boost he promptly provided.
Backes’ physicality only could take him so far, though, and Cassidy ultimately went with Karson Kuhlman on Sunday for Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final. Kuhlman rewarded his coach’s faith, scoring a goal in Boston’s 5-1 win, and the Bruins will roll with the 23-year-old again in Game 7, keeping Backes out of the lineup despite his NHL pedigree.
“We’re all in for whatever’s best for the team,” Backes told The Athletic. “That’s the position we’re in and we’ve got one game to win a Stanley Cup and that’s where you want to be. Not being on the ice is tough, but I’ve got faith in our guys they’ll get the job done and I’ll be doing whatever I can to assist from an arm’s length.”
Not playing in the Stanley Cup Final is difficult. Not playing when this marks your first trip in 13 NHL seasons is even more gut-wrenching, especially when the opponent is an organization with which you’re very, very familiar.
But those are the cards Backes has been dealt, and to his credit, he’s playing them like a consummate professional, telling The Athletic he’ll be “all smiles” if Boston can pull off a victory in Game 7 at TD Garden.