Nicklas Backstrom is not really known as a goal-scorer. In fact, he has made a career out of setting up his linemates for goals and is one of the best in the world at it. But Backstrom has certainly been able to find the back of the net plenty of times in his career, but not lately.
Backstrom scored the first goal of the game in Wednesday's 6-2 win over the Chicago Blackhawks, but it was also a significant goal for him as well as it snapped a 21-game goal drought for the veteran center.
"Obviously it's nice to score, but I haven't really been thinking about it too much," Backstrom said following the game. "... As a hockey player you always want to score, right?"
That had to have made the last few weeks a frustrating time for Backstrom.
At 21 games without a goal, this season's streak is tied for the second-longest of his career. It is only the third time he has ever gone more than 20 games without denting the twine.
Head coach Barry Trotz hoped to spark the team's offense when he moved Backstrom back onto a line with Alex Ovechkin. The move worked as in the six games prior to Wednesday, Backstrom recorded five points. The only problem was that all five of those points were assists.
"He's not just focused on scoring," Trotz said. "He's focused on checking the right way, he's focused on making plays, winning battles, all those other things, winning faceoffs. Whatever it is that he needs to do to add to our game even though he's not scoring."
As one of the team's top offensive players, however, the Caps need him to produce goals as well.
But it was not solely team success that was on the mind of his linemates.
"[Ovechkin] and I were kind of talking about that in the bagel room before the game," Tom Wilson said, "It would be nice to see 19 put one in the back of the net and he did. He's one of the best teammates and great character guy."
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"It was good Nicky got the first one," Trotz said. "I don't think there's anybody on our bench that wasn't happy he got it. It's got to be a sense of relief."
How much relief did Backstrom feel after avoiding a new career-high goalless drought? He'll never tell. Ever the team player, Backstrom said he was happier with the win than with the goal.
"It feels good, but the most important thing is that we won and we played good hockey."