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Stanley Cup Final

Backes set to face former Blues teammates in Final with Bruins

Defeating St. Louis for Cup would be 'extra sweet,' forward says

by Amalie Benjamin @AmalieBenjamin / NHL.com Staff Writer

BOSTON -- The TV went on and off, on and off, a desire to get to sleep pushing David Backes' finger to turn off the power, and his curiosity and anticipation pushing that finger to turn it back on. He didn't want to ponder what was happening on his TV screen, as his former team played for the chance to face his current team in the Stanley Cup Final. 

"I don't want to think about it too much, but then the TV comes back on some magical way and I end up watching a little more," the Boston Bruins forward said the morning after the St. Louis Blues defeated the San Jose Sharks in Game 6 of the Western Conference Final to advance to the Cup Final. "Then by the end of it, yeah, it was tough to fall asleep."

His wife, Kelly, was begging him to turn off the lights and the thoughts, but Backes struggled. He now knew what would happen in Game 1 at TD Garden Monday (8 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, SN, TVAS): The team he once served as captain, the Blues, would come to Boston to take on his Bruins for the chance to win the Stanley Cup. 

 

[RELATED: Complete Bruins vs. Blues series coverage]

 

It was a lot to take in.

Three seasons ago, Backes stood in the visitors' dressing room at SAP Center in San Jose, after his Blues lost to the Sharks in the conference final. He was about to become an unrestricted free agent and he didn't know if he would return to St. Louis, the team that drafted him, or if he would sign somewhere else that offseason. 

On July 1, 2016, he signed a five-year, $30 million contract with the Bruins that would bring with it a move to Boston, and extreme ups and downs in his career, where he has found himself sometimes out-of-step with the NHL's new direction and sometimes a significant piece, currently playing right wing on the Bruins' second line as they enter the biggest series of the season.

But that day was a difficult one to forget. Backes broke down, tears filling his eyes and spilling over, as he contemplated what he had lost. 

What he didn't know if he would ever get the chance to do again. 

And now, he gets to do it against his former team, against some of his best friends, including Blues captain Alex Pietrangelo. 

It was hard not to marvel at the twist of fate.

Video: Quest For The Stanley Cup: David Backes phones home

"It would have been fine to make the Final in different years and then you could have each had a shot at it, maybe, but now it's all about what's in this room," Backes said. "There are still some good friends -- one of my best friends is on that team, he's the captain of their team. I told him I love him now, I'm going to love him afterwards, but I'm going to hate him for the next three weeks here. I think that's a mutual decision."

They will patch up whatever needs patching up after it's all over. For now, the focus is on what's ahead of them, on the games to come, on the opportunity that they have at this moment. 

"There's going to be heightened emotions," Backes said. "It's a binary decision now: It's us or them. There's no third party. No ties, none of that stuff. One of us is going to win the Cup. Either the St. Louis Blues or the Boston Bruins."

He later added, "I think it'll be extra sweet if we're able to win against that team and maybe an extra thump if they win it and we're not able to in this room."

That was exactly what he had hoped for when he signed with Boston. He hoped that the Bruins would provide him a chance to get to the Stanley Cup Final, to win the Cup that he had always dreamed of winning. He had wanted so badly to do that for the city of St. Louis, with the team he had helped build over 10 seasons and 727 games.

He didn't get the chance. And now he's trying to deny the Blues and St. Louis a Stanley Cup, while trying to win one for himself for the first time. To do that will take all of his skills and his strength -- and even some inside intel, if he has any to disseminate. 

"I don't know that I've got the secret sauce," he said. "It's going to be a battle of wills. Both teams are very similar in their makeup, very similar in their style of play, very similar in their resiliency. Both have really good and hot goaltenders and maybe the difference I see is we've got a bigger group of guys that have been to this level, been to this stage, competed in this Finals extravaganza before."

Video: Backes describes feeling of playing for Stanley Cup

That, he knows better than anyone, because he wasn't able to get the Blues that experience. 

Which is why there won't be any divided loyalties. This is too big of a moment, too important to Backes personally, for him to give any thought to the friends and former teammates he could be disappointing on the other side. 

He wants to win.

"Where he is at this stage of his career -- and anybody's, really -- but particularly him who's been through it, he doesn't know when he's going to get another kick at the cat here," Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy said. "I think that'll be the biggest motivating factor for him, get his name on the Stanley Cup."

Because that is what matters, no matter who they're playing. 

"It's an odd storyline in my mind that their last time was [1970] that they were in the Finals," Backes said of the Blues, who lost to the Bruins in four games. "I didn't make it [to the Final] in my 10 years there or my first two years here and my first opportunity in Year 13 in the League is their next opportunity after the '70s. 

"The stars have aligned for this to be one heck of an event. We're just going to embrace it and throw what we have out there in every shift and every moment of every game. I love this group. I wouldn't want to be in the Finals with any other group."

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Listen: Stanley Cup Final preview episode of NHL Fantasy on Ice podcast

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