Why David Backes is skating better at Bruins training camp

Matt Kalman
September 25, 2019 - 11:46 pm

At 35 years old and with two more years left on his contract with the Bruins, David Backes took his diminished performance seriously over the summer.

After he scored a goal in Boston’s 2-0 preseason win over New Jersey at TD Garden on Wednesday, he described the step he took to improve his skating.

“So the whole story is I was skating with my old high school, just kind of playing shinny on one sheet. And I had a text from a friend of mine, said that her sister-in-law’s sister’s on the other rink with a bunch of little girls that would love for me to go say hi to them,” he said.

Backes, of course, obliged the friend and greeted the girls. What happened next couldn’t have been predicted and would be scoffed at if it happened in a movie.

“They were doing a drill, so 12-year-old girls, I’m jumping in the drill with them and I couldn’t do the drill,” he recalled. “So it was maybe the most humbled I’d ever been in my life. And I went home and I said this is divine intervention, and I called that skating coach and I said ‘I need you to help me.’ And she helped me. It was painful at times, I’m not going to lie. But I think it’s translated into what I needed to have.”

That coach was Katie McDonough. Backes worked with her three or four times a week during the shortened offseason.

“It was a rude awakening Day One, and then Night One and Day Two of how sore I was when I was back to using muscles that I had either neglected or were stiffened up. It was necessary,” he said.

Backes said he’s feeling the improvements he’s made, and he may be showing them as well. He was on a line with Par Lindholm and Anders Bjork against the Devils, and that line dictated play and possessed the puck for most of its shifts.

Coming back from a season that saw him become a part-time player, and even get scratched for the last three games of the Stanley Cup Final, Backes is in a fight to get playing time.

Coach Bruce Cassidy appeared to like Backes’ game against New Jersey, but didn’t give the veteran a glowing endorsement.

“I thought he was good, he was banging, he was physical,” Cassidy said. “Got to the net, created some loose puck situations with a good forecheck, so he had his legs. They seem to complement one another, that line. Sometimes it just happens.”

The Bruins have one preseason game left and Backes may not be in the lineup. At the very least he showed he might be able to contribute in a part-time role in Boston, or possibly help out in Providence. Or maybe one of the dozens of scouts saw something that would make another team take on at least part of the $6 million Backes is owed this year and next.

Regardless, it’s impressive to see a veteran of more than 900 NHL games take such an aggressive step to try to make a late-career improvement.