Nicklas Backstrom

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Player poll reveals what Caps fans already knew about Nicklas Backstrom


Player poll reveals what Caps fans already knew about Nicklas Backstrom

It's no secret who the most underrated player on the Washington Capitals is.

Nicklas Backstrom is an elite player both offensively and defensively. Yet, his offensive play is always overshadowed because he plays with the best goal scorer of his generation. His defensive play is overlooked because...he plays with the best goal scorer of his generation.

For many, the hockey conversation in Washington begins and ends with Alex Ovechkin, ignoring a player who is a superstar talent in his own right in Backstrom.

But those who have to play Backstrom know just how great he is.

Several hundred NHL Players were surveyed regarding their opinions on more than 20 hockey-related questions during the NHLPA meetings in January. Among the questions asked was who is the most underrated player?

Wouldn't you know it, Backstrom was named No. 1. You can see the full poll results here.

Backstrom was named the most underrated by 8.6-percent of players edging out Jaden Schwartz (6.8-percent), Nikita Kucherov (6.2-percent) and Aleksander Barkov (6-percent).


In his 11-season NHL career, Backstrom has recorded 777 points (204 goals, 573 assists) in 799 games. That leads all players drafted in 2006, a draft year that included Phil Kessel, Jonathan Toews, Claude Giroux, Jordan Staal and Brad Marchand. Backstrom has more points than any of them. Kessel is the closest with 725 points. No one else has even reached 700 yet.

Expand that list to all players drafted in 2004, 2005 and 2006 and Backstrom is still in the top five, behind only Ovechkin (1,107), Sidney Crosby (1,097), Evgeni Malkin (914), and Anze Kopitar (807).

There seems to be a tendency by some to discount Backstrom's assist totals because he has been playing alongside Ovechkin. That is like discounting how great a wide receiver Jerry Rice was because he played with Joe Montana. Backstrom is without a doubt one of the best setup men in the league and while he may owe some of his success to Ovechkin, Ovechkin undoubtedly owes just as much of his success to his Swedish center.

"[Backstrom's] got elite hands," Barry Trotz said in 2017. "He's one of the best passers that have played the game. You look at how many passes and how he makes it and how he runs the power play and his poise and his patience. He's an outstanding player, playmaker, as good as anybody."

What Ovechkin can't take away from Backstrom is the fact that he is a 200-goal scorer in his own right. Ovechkin also has nothing to do with how good Backstrom is on the defensive end of the ice.

As good as he is offensively, Backstrom is just as good defensively as a shutdown forward. He is one of the top penalty killers on the team and ranks third among Caps' forwards in shorthanded ice time. When the Capitals matched up against the Pittsburgh Penguins in the playoffs in 2016, Backstrom was able to limit Sidney Crosby to just two assists in six games.

If you think Backstrom has simply ridden on the coattails of Ovechkin to big numbers, then you're just not paying attention.


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Already missing Niskanen, there's a chance Caps could also be without Backstrom against Carolina


Already missing Niskanen, there's a chance Caps could also be without Backstrom against Carolina

RALEIGH, N.C.—The Caps won’t have defenseman Matt Niskanen on Tuesday night against the Hurricanes, and there’s a chance they’ll be without center Nicklas Backstrom, too.

Niskanen did not travel to North Carolina with the team as he nurses an upper body ailment. He did not practice on Sunday or Monday and is listed as day-to-day.

Backstrom, meanwhile, is on the trip but did not come to the rink for the morning skate. Coach Barry Trotz said Backstrom is ill and will be a game-time decision.


So, with Niskanen and Backstrom absent at PNC Arena, here’s how Trotz had them lined up:

Ovechkin – Stephenson – Smith-Pelly
Vrana – Kuznetsov – Oshie
Connolly – Eller – Wilson
Burakovsky – Beagle – Chiasson

Djoos – Carlson
Orlov – Chorney
Orpik – Bowey


Some additional notes, quotes and observations:

  • If Backstrom can’t go, Chandler Stephenson will replace him on the top line. It would also mean that Andre Burakovsky would draw back into the lineup after sitting out Saturday as a healthy scratch. If Backstrom does play, though, it would appear that Burakovsky will remain the odd forward out.
  • Niskanen did not skate in Arlington on Tuesday morning, either. He did, however, receive treatment for his injury, according to a spokesman.
  • With Niskanen out, rookie Madison Bowey will return to the lineup after sitting out Saturday as a healthy scratch.
  • Christian Djoos took Niskanen’s spot on the second power play unit.
  • Braden Holtby is expected to face Cam Ward tonight as the Canes go for their seventh win in a row at home. Overall, Carolina has won four of its last five games and seven of nine.
  • Ward, meantime, has won his past six starts, posting a 1.80 goals against average and a .934 save percentage during that span.
  • Former Capital and current Cane Justin Williams, as he often did in D.C., dropped a gem of a quote after the Canes' skate:

Williams has seven goals and 17 assists in 38 games.   

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Backstrom ends goal drought much to the delight of his teammates

Backstrom ends goal drought much to the delight of his teammates

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."


"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."