ST. LOUIS - David Backes
is picking up his game at just the right time for the surging St. Louis Blues.
With his club missing arguably their top three forwards in David Perron
, T.J. Oshie
and Andy McDonald
, Backes has picked up the slack on offense and defense. The winger had both goals in the Blues' 2-0 win over Nashville on Sunday night and has a team high 28 points on the season through Dec. 27.
After scoring just two goals in the first 14 games, Backes began to turn things around on Nov. 13. Not coincidentally, Backes and the Blues announced a five-year, $22.5 million extension the day before.
Backes has 22 points in 22 games since the deal was announced, including a goal in the Blues' first game following the deal on Nov. 13 against Phoenix. He has had at least one assist in the Blues' next four games and has continued to produce ever since.
"I think there's less pressure as far as thinking of myself statistically and where I'm going to measure out and where I'm going to be slotted in as far as contract wise at the end of the year," Backes said of the contract. "It kind of allowed me to focus more on winning games and doing the smaller things and putting the team first. I think there's a certain amount of certainty and comfort and security that the contract brings that makes it able for me to do the right things day in and day out.
"Not that you get more selfish in that contract year, but when you're thinking about things like that, your decision-making may be a little fogged by those outside factors."
Backes scored a career-high 31 goals two years ago, the year after he signed a three-year extension with the Blues that was set to expire at the end of this season. He had just 17 goals last year but is looking to pass that mark after picking up the pace the last few weeks.
But Backes has been valuable to the Blues even when he's not scoring. He was fifth in the league with 240 hits last season and has the ability to impact a game on both offense and defense. He's also willing to drop the gloves and be physical if his team is in need of a kick-start.
"I think he understands there's lots of ways he can contribute to our team's success," said coach Davis Payne. "On each given night something different is required. Is it the big hit? Is it the key goal? Is it a timely penalty kill? I think he understands that and he's comfortable providing anything. At the end of the night, the only statistic is the 'W' column for him."
"This is a high point for the season for him so far. He's controlling the play. He's done his job defensively. He's chipped in and made some plays and scored some big goals, and then when the game gets into a situation where one play makes the difference, he's out there making it for us."
The 26-year-old Backes is currently centering the top line with Vladimir Sobotka
and Matt D'Agostini
on the wings. His 19 assists are six more than any of his teammates and his nine goals are just two short of Alex Steen
for the team lead.
His 54 penalty minutes are third on the team.
"Just playing and trying to contribute any way I can," Backes said. "If we're playing flat and need a boost of momentum and a hit is what's needed, then that's what I need to provide. If it's a tie game and we need a shot on net or to create some offense, then that's what's required also. It's not pressing. It's letting the game come to me and reading it and playing smart along with playing hard."
Backes' resurgence couldn't have come at a better time for the Blues. With Perron and McDonald out indefinitely with concussions and Oshie still weeks away from a return from a broken ankle, the Blues have been in need of a spark offensively.
And it appears all it took was a signature on the dotted line to do the trick.
"You can breathe a little easier and you are no longer pressing and thinking, 'I have to get mine, I have to get mine,'" Backes said. "It's whatever is best for the team at this point. That seems to be a better mindset for me to be in. You talk about scoring 31 and that was the year right after I signed the three year contract and had the security to go out there and relax and play.
"Not just this year or next year, but with five years, there's going to be quite a few years where I can have that security to just go out there and play and try to help the team win games. …. It seems to be that I'm contributing to wins whether it's on the score sheet or doing the little things that don't get on the score sheet. When we're winning I think everyone is happy."