David Backes has a healthy dose of opinions on his Bruin teammates
David Backes believes he is in a good place. It is a hard-won feeling.
“My game’s in order,” said the Bruins forward Monday. “My family’s well, healthy, and in a good spot. We’re settled in and have some good routines.”
One hockey calendar year ago, Backes was ready for opening night. He wanted to improve on an uneven debut season in Boston, a 17-goal, 21-assist year that was not in line with his career averages, and unbecoming of a player who signed a five-year, $30 million deal in July 2016.
The night before the Bruins opened against Nashville, acute diverticulitis came calling. Surgical procedures followed for Backes: a drain inserted into his gluteus maximus muscle, which he played with for five games over three weeks, then the removal of 10 inches of his colon, from which he recovered for four weeks.
Backes called it a “slap in the face,” referring to the dietary, stress, and hereditary reasons that caused the flareup. Between the colorectal issues, a skate cut on his thigh March 17, and a concussion in the playoffs, to call it a trying season isn’t strong enough.
“It was a lot of fits and starts,” said Backes, 34, who finished with 33 points in 57 games, skating as the third-line right wing with center Riley Nash and left wing Danton Heinen.
He has altered his diet, losing 10 pounds from his 6-foot-2-inch, 221-pound frame by cutting out sugars and red meat, trimming chicken and pork, and leaning on fish and plants.
“I think it was a step in the right direction,” he said of last year, despite all the challenges. “I need to be healthy and be on the ice to contribute what I want to contribute.”
In advance of Wednesday’s season opener, Backes contributed some rapid-fire superlatives on the 2018-19 Bruins. Here are one veteran’s quick takes on the teammates he’s known the last two-plus seasons (and old-school video games):
“Between Jake [DeBrusk] and [Sean] Kuraly. I’ll say Jake. Kuraly will toe-pick somewhere in the race.”
“Marshy. [Brad Marchand]. Tough to get your hands on him. He’s always spinning around in circles.”
Most deceptive shot?
“[Ryan] Donato seems to score from anywhere. I don’t know if it’s deceptive or just hard, but he’s a talented finisher.”
Smartest player on the team?
“Bergy’s [Patrice Bergeron’s] hockey IQ is off the charts. It’s pretty phenomenal. Hockey-wise, the smartest person in the room.”
“Ah . . . [scans the room, looking at lockers for clues]. There’s a few guys who know their stuff. Kevan Miller’s pretty well read.”
Biggest overgrown kid?
“Pasta [David Pastrnak], [Anders] Bjork, JD [DeBrusk], they could all be getting beat by 6-year-olds at Fortnite on any given day.”
Not a Fortnite player?
“I’ve never held a controller — not for those games. [NHL] 94, Super Nintendo, I was all over that.”
What was your team back then?
“St. Louis, Brett Hull, across the crease, backhand. Scored every time.”
Did you play with no cheap goals? You used to be able to shoot from the wing, sweet spot, it was automatic.
“No. You had to defend that. You could hit X and take control of the goalie, stack the pads, and he was invincible for some reason.”
Were you a triple-deke guy?
“Sometimes. If I had the thumb ability.”
“Sometimes you were pushing them up so hard your thumbs locked up.”
Most outlandish style?
“Pasta’s style is gross. He’s got one sweat shirt that looks like a clown is on it. I don’t even know how much it was, but if it wasn’t free, he paid too much.”
“Bjorky’s got good style. Bergy’s got good style. I’ll leave it at those two.”
Best chirps in the room?
“I’ve got some pretty bad ones.”
“I try to go high level and have to explain them to Pasta. Not ideal.”