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Backes Gives Team USA Skill and Snarl

Blues forward scored winning goal while also playing physical on Tuesday

Tuesday, 02.16.2010 / 8:28 PM CT / St. Louis Blues
By Shawn Roarke  - NHL.com
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Backes Gives Team USA Skill and Snarl
David Backes brought a highlight-reel goal and plenty of physicality to Team USA's opening game vs. Switzerland on Tuesday. (Getty Images).

  Video: Goal Highlights from the Game
  Olympics: Complete Blues Coverage
VANCOUVER -- St. Louis forward David Backes was one of a raft of Team USA players who entered the 2010 Olympic hockey tournament without much of an international reputation.

In fact, Backes was probably one of the most controversial of the 23 players GM Brian Burke chose on Jan. 1 to represent the United States. At the time of his selection, Backes had just 9 goals and 19 points. Plus, the 25-year-old was in just his fourth NHL season.

But Burke, the architect of the American team, believed that Backes could be just the type of player Team USA needed as part of a new generation that will try to duplicate the successes the team had from 1994 to 2002, bookended by a World Cup of Hockey victory at the beginning of that run and a silver medal at the end.

In Team USA's first game of the 2010 Olympic tournament, Backes repaid Burke's faith by scoring the winning goal in Tuesday's 3-1 Group A victory against Switzerland at Canada Hockey Place. Just as important, Backes played a snarling, nasty game throughout as part of a highly effective fourth line for the Americans.

"What David Backes does is he's big but he can move his feet well, he's got proper levels of truculence and he's good on faceoffs," Burke said Tuesday afternoon in the glow of the victory. "He does a lot of the pick-and-shovel things on a team well, and he's going to have to shut down people and bang later in the tournament."

But Backes' defining moment Tuesday was far from workmanlike. It had superstar written all over it.

A little more than five minutes into the second period, the Americans were looking a tad nervous as they clung to a 1-0 lead, which was forged on the strength of a goal by Anaheim's Bobby Ryan, who was also on the fourth line with Backes.

But then Backes struck.

He picked up a puck laying loose right in front of American goalie Ryan Miller and started chugging up ice – and never stopped. Backes picked up speed along the left wall -- moving his feet, as Burke would say -- and swung wide past Swiss defender Yannick Weber as he hit the bottom of the circle. As he cut in, he made a nifty backhand-to-forehand move that freed him to beat Swiss goalie Jonas Hiller to the far post.

"I noticed the two defenders were back," said Backes, sporting gauze in his nostril to stop the bleeding caused by a first-shift collision with a Swiss player. "So I tried to get a bit of speed. I've got a big frame so I just tried to keep the defender on my back side and once I had the corner it was: 'Get to that far post as quick as I could and throw it in there as hard as I could.' And I saw it go past his pad and it was pretty cool."

It was actually a thing of beauty from a player whose game is often about the unglamorous side of hockey -- what Wilson calls the "detailed grunt work."

"We'll save that video," Burke said, smiling broadly.

But according to Backes' teammate in St. Louis, Team USA defenseman Erik Johnson, there is a good chance you could see a similar goal from Backes before this Olympic tournament is done.

"It was like déjà vu when I saw him score that goal," Johnson told NHL.com. "I've seen him score that same exact goal, at that same end, in this building (against the NHL's Vancouver Canucks) before. I'm used to that and hopefully he does it every game here going forward."

"To me, there's no question he is the type of guy that can play in these short tournaments. He can kill penalties, play in front of the net on the power play and shut down the other team's top players. He's been doing it on our team in St. Louis. He's kind of a jack of all trades and it was evident today."

When it comes to Backes, maybe Brian Burke knew what he was talking about all along.

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1 z - ANA 82 51 24 7 228 221 109
2 y - STL 82 51 24 7 239 197 109
3 x - NSH 82 47 25 10 226 202 104
4 x - CHI 82 48 28 6 220 186 102
5 x - VAN 82 48 29 5 236 220 101
6 x - MIN 82 46 28 8 227 198 100
7 x - WPG 82 43 26 13 223 204 99
8 x - CGY 82 45 30 7 237 213 97
9 LAK 82 40 27 15 218 197 95
10 DAL 82 41 31 10 257 257 92
11 COL 82 39 31 12 209 223 90
12 SJS 82 40 33 9 224 226 89
13 EDM 82 24 44 14 193 276 62
14 ARI 82 24 50 8 165 267 56


V. Tarasenko 77 37 36 27 73
A. Steen 74 24 40 8 64
J. Schwartz 75 28 35 13 63
D. Backes 80 26 32 7 58
T. Oshie 72 19 36 17 55
P. Stastny 74 16 30 5 46
A. Pietrangelo 81 7 39 -2 46
J. Lehtera 75 14 30 21 44
K. Shattenkirk 56 8 36 19 44
P. Berglund 77 12 15 -2 27
B. Elliott 26 14 3 .917 2.26
J. Allen 22 7 4 .913 2.28

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