As captain of the St. Louis Blues David Backes has been a busy man early on in this new season — introducing himself and his teammates to so many new faces as the team has had to deal with multiple injuries since training camp. Already this season key players Patrik Berglund, Robby Fabbri, Paul Stastny, Jaden Schwartz and Kevin Shattenkirk have spent time or are still on Injured Reserve and St. Louis has called up a host of players from their AHL affiliate in Chicago in addition to signing three of four players that were invited in on tryouts (more on them later). Despite all of that, 16 games into the season the Blues have 23 points (11-4-1) which is second in the Central Division/Western Conference and good enough for fourth in the NHL; Backes has six points (3g-3a) thus far.
Now in his tenth NHL season, the 31-year-old Backes’ leadership has been the glue keeping the Blues together despite what could have been a bumpy start to the season with all the missing bodies. He has worn the C as St. Louis’ captain since 2011 and in addition to representing the US in two Olympic Games (silver medal in 2010), Backes is well-known in and outside of the hockey community for the amazing charity that he does involving saving homeless animals (more on that below).
Following his team’s recent win in New Jersey (their second shutout in their last two games at the Prudential Center) The Hockey Writers interviewed David Backes to find out how the Blues have been able to find so much success with all of the injuries and an explanation of what his charity work is all about.
The Hockey Writers: Your team is now 3-0-0 to open this four-game trip and your goalie Jake Allen now has back-to-back shutouts, safe to say things are going well for the team so far?
David Backes: I think Jake made some key saves at key times (tonight) when we did give up some good chances; for the most part after the first period we got pucks deep and played in their end a lot more. We turned it up in the second and third, which we needed to do because we were under siege a bit in the first period there. We started playing our game (in the second) rather than getting cute through the middle there — they (the Devils) were picking those passes off the whole first period and turning them back on us into odd-man rushes. We started taking care of the puck a lot more and it led to a lot more offensive time for us; the result was two goals and we sat them down the rest of the way.
THW: The Blues don’t play the Devils too often, only twice a year, but did you notice anything different about New Jersey, maybe systematically, from playing them in the past?
DB: The first statement was spot on, we don’t play them too much, or enough (to really notice); every time we do play them there seems to be bad weather somewhere though (smiles). The snowstorm (in 2013-14) was not good luck for us and the rain (tonight) seemed to be a little bit more in our favor. It’s good defensive tactics that these games seem to have and it was a great play from Gomer to Marty and then we got a scramble goal where Magnus (Paajarvi) was able to help us out there too. Two guys that are relatively new to the lineup put pucks in the net (for us tonight) and we’re finding ways to win.
THW: The Blues have had a lot of injuries to key players early in the season, but you’ve brought in players like the aforementioned Scott Gomez and Martin Havlat and haven’t missed a beat; why is that?
DB: I think it’s a credit to the guys coming in, acclimating to our systems and going out there and playing their butts off. Then the rest of the guys willing to take a little bit different responsibilities to buckle down and get good team wins. That’s what we’ve been doing, putting two points in the bank and moving on to the next one. This was a tough one, we’ve got another one on the road (eventually a 6-3 loss at the New York Rangers); Chicago, Nashville, Jersey and then the Rangers — that’s a tough road trip.
THW: As the captain of this team is there anything you do to make all of the new faces feel comfortable or more at ease when they come in to the team?
DB: I just make myself available for any questions that they might have, keep it light-hearted, welcome them and make them feel comfortable. When they feel comfortable they’re going to play their best; all of those guys have done that and helped us win games and that’s what it’s all about.
THW: You do a lot of charity work in your off time, especially with animals; can you explain to the fans out there, who maybe have been living under a rock, what it is that you do?
DB: My wife and I started an organization called Athletes for Animals and we try to get athletes from all over the sporting platform, all across the country, to lend their voice to this platform. We’ve had a great response and hopefully it will continue to grow; just getting guys to speak up — there are some athletes that have given (the rest of) us (pros) a black eye with how they treat their animals. We’re trying to lead by example and show the kids that we’re role models for that responsible pet ownership and treating them with kindness is what you should do.
Dan Rice can be reached via Twitter: @DRdiabloTHW or via Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.