The Toronto Maple Leafs discovered just how colossal David Backes’ game can be.
Tuesday night, the St. Louis Blues captain scorched the Leafs for three goals, including an empty netter to seal the deal, en route to a 5-3 Blues victory. His second goal seemed to place the Maple Leafs in a state of unconsciousness when he beat goalie Jonathan Bernier with just 33 seconds remaining in the first period.
The 2011-12 Selke Trophy finalist has been the hottest Blue as of late, recording six goals in his past five games. On top of lighting the lamp, 27 notches on the season to rank second on the roster, Backes has been a force on every inch of the ice. His plus-three rating Tuesday night gave him a plus-14 on the season, tying him for 10th on the team.
He’s picked up his hitting game, as well. The Minneapolis native registered four hits on the Leafs, bringing his totals in the past six games to 28. His 250 hits leads the roster, crushing Ryan Reaves’ 175 checks, which sits in second place.
The timing could not be more perfect for the captain. A season after accumulating just six goals, Backes has scored two game winners in the past three Blues wins. His last was on Sunday, when his team narrowly defeated the high-powered Pittsburgh Penguins, 1-0.
The Blues averaged 4.10 goals for in the first month of the season, but have seen that number dip since returning from the Olympic break. The once-potent offense has averaged just 2.4 goals in the past 15 games.
Notorious for missing out on a scoring threat in the postseason, the Blues lineup will once again rely on someone already within the organization to step his game up. Last playoff, Alexander Steen came alive with three goals in the first-round loss to the Los Angeles Kings. He added two in Game 1, including the decider in overtime.
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Steen, who has seen a bump in his ice time this season, is likely to remain on a line with Backes and T.J. Oshie in the 2014 postseason. This line has produced as well as any top line in the league, contributing for 33.78 percent of the Blues’ goals on the season (76-225).
Although the trio is widely considered a dual threat with its ability to shut down opposing No. 1 lines (one shot for Phil Kessel on Tuesday), the Blues brass is hoping for the same type of production from its top line come mid-April. More importantly, there is reason to believe that Backes will improve on his four career postseason goals.
If he can continue to fill the back of the net in the regular season, that success could carry over to a time when the Blues need it most.
I am a former NHL media member and reporter for the St. Louis Blues, working for various media outlets. Currently, I am an NHL News Writer and Editor for The Hockey Writers. I live in St. Louis and work as a freelance copywriter in numerous industries.