After quite literally having a piece of his colon removed, it was anyone’s guess as to how effective David Backes would be in his return to the ice.
In hindsight, that line of thinking was silly.
Backes has been an absolute horse for the Bruins, well apparent in Boston’s 4-3 shootout loss to the Washington Capitals on Thursday night at Capital One Arena. He provided two of the three goals while also helping to create chances on the power play.
And in his 13 games since returning to the ice on Nov. 29, he’s contributed seven goals with five assists.
“These are the types of games he excels at, they’re big bodies,” head coach Bruce Cassidy told NESN’s Jack Edwards and Andy Brickley following the game. “Even though Washington’s a skill team they’re a big team, they play a heavy game, you got to be willing to take some hits to win some pucks and take care of pucks and get to the dirty areas.
“He’s always willing to do that,” Cassidy continued, “So his value comes through even more in these type of games and we certainly need it and have needed it of late, and (the third) line has done a terrific job.”
Backes’ physical presence on the third line has been an integral part of the trio’s red-hot success of late. The balance between his physical game with Riley Nash and Danton Heinen’s more skill-oriented style has made the Bruins a team that can comfortably roll out their third line against any group of forwards in the league.
And Backes’ willingness to use his body, especially in order to wreak havoc in front of the net, was something the Bruins missed dearly when he was out with diverticulitis.
That style of play is emblematic of the type of player the 33-year-old has been for Boston this season. To be a net-front player like Backes who is willing to take a beating in hopes of getting a stick on a puck to deflect it in requires both skill, brawn and a willingness to be a warrior.
And that’s what he’s been in every sense of the term.
Mere hours after the birth of his second child Saturday, he was dressing for the Bruins on next to no sleep and contributed a pair of assists in a win over the Red Wings. He came back remarkably fast from the setback with diverticulitis in order to be there for his team, and he immediately competed at a high level.
He’ll never be the player to light the lamp night in and night out, but even with Thursday’s loss, he showed he’s the player that he almost always can provide a little more than what the Bruins need of him at any point.
Here are some other notes from Bruins-Capitals:
— The Bruins now are 2-3-1 in the second game of a back-to-back.
— Boston completed their season series with the Capitals on Thursday.
— With the loss, the Bruins fell to 15-0-2 when holding a two-goal lead in a game.
Thumbnail photo via Geoff Burke/USA TODAY Sports Images.