Thursday, May 6, 2021

Blues fail to clinch playoff spot, this night belonged to Backes

Former Blues captain, likely playing in final game of NHL career, 
ends it in St. Louis on high note with Ducks in 3-2 shootout win

ST. LOUIS -- Forget the disappointment of not clinching that final playoff berth on Wednesday.

This one was for the captain.
(St. Louis Blues/Scott Rovak)
An emotional David Backes waves farewell to Blues fans in what was 
likely his last game in the NHL on Wednesday.

Even had the Blues won against the Anaheim Ducks on Wednesday, which they didn't when they fell 3-2 in a shootout, they needed a regulation win by the Arizona Coyotes to stamp their ticket to the playoffs, and that didn't happen either, as the Coyotes fell 4-2 to LA. 

So lets make this about the guy that wore his heart on his sleeve, and will one day, when that day comes, become an instant member of the Blues alumni.

David Backes, drafted by the Blues in the second round of 2003 and played 10 of his 15 NHL seasons, including five of them as captain from 2011-16 with the Blues, may have well played his last game at Enterprise Center on Wednesday.

And he went out a winner.

“If you gave me a blank sheet of paper and said how do you want to end your career, this might have been second to, you know, hoisting the Stanley Cup and going out in that style," Backes said. "That's not always reality, so you know, this is pretty amazing."

Backes, playing in just his 15th and likely final NHL game, was in the starting lineup and took the opening draw against Ivan Barbashev, which he won.

No big deal, right?


But then came the video tribute, which the 37-year-old had to be expecting, and the emotions came out. 

Backes, who played 10:32 in the game, was able to collect his emotions and focus on the task at hand, even as the full allotted crowd of 4,100-plus was giving him a standing ovation.

Backes had a couple moments where he could have scored, which would have been fitting in this building, but couldn't connect. It would have been ironic to see if Ducks coach Dallas Eakins would have sent him out for the third shootout attempt but that opportunity never presented itself, and when the final horn sounded, the Blues stayed on the ice to congratulate not only Backes but Ducks goalie and former Blues netminder Ryan Miller, who announced this season would also be his last.

"I made it most of the way and then, you know, seeing the guys that I played with the longest really, really hit me in the heart with 'Schwartzy' (Jaden Schwartz) and all he's been through lately (following the death of his father, Rick, last November) and David Perron and how far he's come, it's just all the memories flood back of the great moments that we've had as friends and teammates," Backes said. "... I thought I was done with this (reminders of his time in St. Louis), but I appreciate it!"

It was a night to remember for Backes, who played in 727 of his 965 NHL regular-season games wearing the Bluenote.

Once the congratulatory handshakes and hugs were done, Backes was announced as the game's No. 1 star and did a postgame interview on BSMW ... and the fans didn't want to leave, acknowledging his legacy here. There was a video tribute with his wife Kelly and two kids.

"He's a guy that played hard every night," said Schwartz, Backes' teammate from 2011-16. "He was the captain when I came in. He's a guy that really cared about his teammates. He helped me out a lot as a young guy. He was a guy that you could ask questions and learn from. He's a guy that played a lot of hard minutes. He played power play, penalty kill, he played other teams' top lines. That's not easy to do is shut down other teams' top lines and be counted on to produce. He did a good job of that. 

"We had some good runs in the playoffs. We ran into some good teams. We were like one win away a lot of times from moving on. He was obviously a big part of this organization for a long time. I glad I got to play with him, get to know him. He was a guy that when I think about him, he did everything he did to win."
(St. Louis Blues/Scott Rovak)
Blues forward David Perron hugs former teammate David Backes after the
game Wednesday, a 3-2 Ducks win in a shootout.

And before Backes could leave the ice for good, he came back out for one more run, with fans thanking his presence, so he could get final hugs and photos ... with his mom Karen and father Steve.

"It meant a ton," Backes said. "It's been well-documented that this place means a ton to me. I'm grateful certainly for the stint I had in Boston and for the Ducks to give me a little bit of a swan song here in Anaheim, it's been such a blessing to be in Southern California during this pandemic where my wife and kids could be outside a lot, but to be back where it all started, to be in a building where I spent so many nights honing my craft and doing what I love to do and things that I actually love ... a lot of memories and a lot great moments that have happened in this building."

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