Backes, Johnson and Polak
I hoped our Olympic representatives from the Blues would play well, but so far they have completely exceeded my expectations. Evidence you ask? Take David Backes. Until he started picking fights with a string of Canadian players, Backes was for the most part relatively unknown around the NHL world. Fantasy hockey players knew him as the guy that might score 30 goals and put up a ton of penalty minutes, but since he has played poorly this year he fell out of their vision as well.
Boy has Backes made a lot of people remember his name and in a hurry. Team USA’s first game saw him deliver some crushing blows capped off by an impressive coast-to-coast goal. The team’s second game saw even more attention thrown Backes’ way with the play-by-play keeping a sharp eye on each of the Blues forward’s movements. With each big hit, NBC continued to stack on the praise for what we have seen for quite some time now. Backes didn’t score in the game, but did contribute an assist.
For St. Louis Blues fans, this performance might come off as frustrating as you wonder where this type of play has been all season from Backes. Like most of the team, Backes has been inconsistent but has had more positive spots than negative.
One thing is for certain, Backes will likely be focused upon in great detail Sunday against Canada considering his scraps leading into the Olympic games. Can he live up to the hype that has renamed him Inglorious Backes? Or will he get lost when facing the incredibly talented Canadian team? Time will tell.
Erik Johnson once again skated well and more importantly seemed to show no effects from the hit he took in the team’s first game that caused the defender to get up slowly. I’m probably analyzing that hit more than I should, but considering recent history and the player we are talking about, I think it’s warranted. Johnson has been held completely out of the boxscore sitting at 0 points and a plus/minus that reads EVEN, but that point aside I would say he has played very well. He may not be contributing to the attack, but he hasn’t been a negative on the ice in his first Olympic Games. Canada brings a whole other test and it will be interesting to see how Johnson (and the rest of the U.S. defense) answers the call.
Finally, Roman Polak. Polak was on the winning side of a 3-1 battle against rival Slovakia and takes on Latvia this evening. Through one game, Polak sits at a +1 and skated hard just as we have seen from him all season long. He skates with an air of confidence and his determination often keeps the opponent at bay down low in his own end. Just like the USA will face a big test Sunday, Polak and his Czech team will as well as they take on Russia.
All in all, a lot to be proud of and excited about so far from the trip of Blues. My hope is they take their Olympic experience and build upon it in the NHL season and help carry this team. Backes has emerged as a leader on the Blues team and I fully expect him to be an integral part of the St. Louis side for years to come. Johnson needs the experience and should only improve as he gains confidence and gets more games under his belt. Polak is already a force at defense and should continue to learn the subtle aspects of the game to make him a more complete defender.
Stay tuned as your Blues skate through the rest of the Olympics.