BOSTON - For the first three games of the Bruins' second-round series against the Columbus Blue Jackets, David Backes was a spectator. As a 13-year veteran and former captain in the National Hockey League, it was no doubt a difficult adjustment to watch the postseason as a healthy scratch.
But Backes was steadfast in his belief that he continue to be a positive influence around his teammates, while waiting for an opportunity to arise.
And when his chance came midway through the B's best-of-seven showdown with the Blue Jackets, Backes made his mark. In addition to his physicality and leadership, Backes registered a point in all three games that he played, including his first goal of the postseason in Game 6.
"David's role has changed a little bit the last couple years, we know that. Right or wrong, that's the coach's decision. We've discussed it with him," said Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy. "I'm happy for David. It's an adjustment…he was a captain in the National Hockey League. Now you've turned into a little bit more of a secondary player. He's been able to stick with it, work hard, accept his role, whether he likes it or not, and contribute to the success of the team."
Video: Backes speaks after series win
With Boston trailing the series, 2-1, the 35-year-old re-entered the lineup for Game 4, replacing Kuhlman as the second-line right wing alongside David Krejci and Jake DeBrusk. And it was with that duo that the winger put the final nail in the coffin on Monday night.
Midway through the third period with the Bruins ahead by two, Krejci delivered a pass to Torey Krug, who then found Backes surging into the slot. Backes went hard to the net and tapped the feed by Blue Jackets goalie Sergei Bobrovsky to give Boston a 3-0 lead with 9:21 remaining.
"To be able to put one in the back of the net was a pretty good exclamation point on trying to make an impact on this series for me," said Backes. "To celebrate that goal with guys we worked and battled with for two series so far, having success, is a real good feeling."
"It's even better when a guy like him scores kind of the goal that you think, that's the nail in the coffin," added Cassidy. "Guys are very happy for him. I'm happy for him. Hopefully he continues to deliver."
In seven games this postseason, Backes has done just that, registering four points (goal, three assists) and 27 hits. His 3.9 hits per game paces the Bruins.
"Establishing my game, but not getting too anxious or too excited where you're in the penalty box," Backes said of channeling his energy in the right way. "A physical presence that's gonna try to get to the front of the net, make some space for my linemates, but distract goaltenders and occupy some defensemen.
"If I stick to those sorts of principles, the rest of the game sort of works itself out and was able to, I feel like, make an impact on the three games I was able to play this series."
Video: BOS@CBJ, Gm6: Backes tips in feed from Krug
Krejci Hits Milestones
Krejci notched two points in the B's Game 6 victory, including the eventual winning goal, a slapper from the right circle midway through the second period. The 33-year-old, who has twice led the Bruins in postseason scoring, now ranks third in team history with six game-wining playoff goals, behind Cam Neely (11) and Phil Esposito (9).
"I don't care about myself," said Krejci. "I just go out there and try to help the team whatever way it is to get a win. That's pretty much what every single guy wants to do here. We don't need any heroes here."
Meanwhile, the pivot's assist on Backes' tally gave him 61 for his postseason career, moving him past Johnny Bucyk for third most in Bruins history. Krejci's 97 career playoff points - 10 coming so far this postseason - rank fifth.
"I think it's his composure," Cassidy said of Krejci's postseason success. "Guys are playing at a higher pace out there, there's more physicality, everything's ratcheted up, there's noise all night. He's got that ability to block that stuff out. It's one of his unique gifts, he can slow the game down. At this time of the year, it's even that much more important to stay within yourself, stay composed, make the plays that are in front of you.
"He's just real good at it. It's his gift to be able to do that. Even at a higher pace, it's that much more valuable to execute and settle pucks down and make your plays. That's his gift."
Video: BOS@CBJ, Gm6: Krejci hammers loose puck by Bobrovsky
McAvoy Has Hearing
Charlie McAvoy was scheduled to have a hearing with the NHL's Department of Player Safety on Tuesday afternoon after he was penalized for an illegal check to the head on Columbus forward Josh Anderson during Game 6.
"It was a hockey play," McAvoy said after the game. "I tried to finish my check in a legal manner. I was penalized two minutes and I served it. I just came back and tried to be an impactful player. Fortunately enough it was in a winning effort and happy we're going on to the next round."
General manager Don Sweeney, speaking to the media around noon, said the hearing was yet to take place and would not comment on the situation.
Video: McAvoy reacts to series win
Sweeney said that defenseman Kevan Miller, out since April 4 with a lower-body injury, has "made some progress" and the team "is not ruling him out" for a return down the road.
"We're hopeful," said Sweeney. "He's got some tests, some benchmarks that he has before he gets back on the ice, but he's made some progress. We told him all along, the further we play, the more he has an opportunity to continue to work and get back in there. Hopefully we get that opportunity."
Sweeney also noted that blue liner John Moore, who was battling an upper-body injury and did not play in the Columbus series, is well enough to suit up.
"He's just dealing with stuff that makes it hard, but he's available," said Sweeney.
Game 1 Set
The National Hockey League announced that the Eastern Conference Final will begin on Thursday, May 9 when the Bruins play host to the Carolina Hurricanes in Game 1 at 8 p.m. ET. The game will be televised on NBCSN in the U.S. The rest of the series schedule is TBD.
Ticket information is here.