ST. LOUIS - Ken Hitchcock has been behind an NHL bench since 1995 and said he’s only coached two players that weren’t afraid to stand in front of the net and absorb shots.
One was Raffi Torres, who he coached in Columbus.
The other is David Backes.
“There are a lot of guys that go into traffic, but as the puck is coming, they’ll jump out of the way and try to tip it,” Hitchcock said after a 4-3 overtime win in Game 2. “(David) is one of two players that will hang in there with the shot. He’s willing to absorb the puck and make a play after that, which is very unique.”
The Blues’ captain, who celebrated his 32nd birthday on Sunday, was parked in front of Dallas Stars goalie Antti Niemi in the first overtime of Game 2. Blues forward Alexander Steen let a shot go from the point, which Niemi stopped. But he couldn’t stop Backes, who corralled the rebound and drove it home to give the Blues a victory 10:58 into the first overtime.
It was Backes’ second game-winning overtime goal of the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
“He always goes to the hard spots. Net-front is not an easy spot to be in,” said defenseman Colton Parayko. “You’re getting pushed around, you’re getting hacked, you’re getting whacked. It’s a gritty area. Happy birthday to Backes for that one.”
"I'd probably have to give credit to my years of playing baseball - guys pitching inside at similiar speed, knowing there's a chance you get hit but the reward for standing in there is well worth it," Backes said. "There's a trust factor with the guy shooting the puck as well, knowing they're going to keep it net-height or below, which means I'm going to get hit somewhere below the neck, and you can heal from any of those.
"It's a mindset that it's something we need done, and I'm willing to go in there and stand there," he added. "Hopefully guys shoot right by me and into the net and we get to celebrate as a group."
Thanks in part to Backes being in front of the net, the Blues have split the first two games of the series in Dallas and will return home for Games 3 and 4 at Scottrade Center.
“No one’s really established that they’re dominant in carrying momentum. Game 3 will be a huge one,” Backes said. “Who can really put their game out there for a longer time, stick with it and make plays. They’ve probably played more better minutes than we have in this series and we’ve got to take that over. We’ve got an opportunity on Tuesday.”