ARLINGTON, Va. -- From the moment Nicklas Backstrom was drafted, he and Alex Ovechkin have been bonded together. When Backstrom was drafted in 2006, it was Ovechkin who actually made the announcement foreshadowing the greatest duo to ever wear a Capitals jersey. Since then, they have both become great players with their own legacies, but with an inescapable link on and off the ice. That link will reach 900 games on Friday.
“I wasn't expecting a whole lot when I first got drafted, but ever since it's been a journey,” Backstrom said. “To be able to play with one of the greatest goal-scorer ever, it's very fortunate.”
When the Capitals play the New Jersey Devils on Friday, it will be the 900th game Ovechkin and Backstrom have played together. Both players have spent their careers building their own individual legacies, but as two star players who have spent nearly their entire careers together, they have also cemented themselves as one of the best duos in the history of hockey, perhaps in sports.
As a tandem, Ovechkin and Backstrom have produced 735 goals together. Of Ovechkin’s 679 goals, Backstrom has assisted in 556 of them. Of Backstrom’s 237 goals, Ovechkin has had a hand in 179 of them.
“He usually yells for the puck so that’s why,” Backstrom said when asked why the two have been able to work together so well.
He added, “Why we've been working so good together may be because I'm more of passer and he's a pure goal-scorer I think. So I think that's why it worked out so good. I think we're a great connection off the ice too. I think that helps too when you're tight together as friendship. It helps too. You can have high expectations on each other on the ice which I think has helped during our careers.”
For 900 games and 13 seasons, Ovechkin and Backstrom have dominated the NHL, a testament to how they complement one another on and off the ice.
“When it started it was awesome and not much has changed in those 900 games since,” John Carlson said. “It's pretty special for two teammates to play that long together, but also be that impactful both on and off the ice in what they've done for hockey in D.C. It's amazing and now the younger generation gets the reap those rewards.”
“[Backstrom's] a tremendous person and an unbelievable center,” Ovechkin said. “To be around him, see how he's grown up, how he's matured, it's great.”
Two star players on the same team does not always breed success. Egos can often get in the way. But managing the two superstars in the locker room has seemingly never been a problem in Washington.
“It's not always when you're talking about two star players, it doesn't always work out perfect and that is the absolute opposite with these two,” Todd Reirden said. “These two get along great in all areas, on the ice, off the ice, challenge each other, play on the same line. How many times Nick has set up Ovi for goals is a crazy amount of assists. They're just both really special in their own way. They're much different personalities which maybe makes it work really well.”
Ovechkin has always been the focal point, anointed by the media as the face of the Capitals from the moment he was drafted in 2004. Backstrom, meanwhile, has never been an attention seeker, instead choosing to speak softly and keep his head down, focused only on improving his game and winning.
“It's something that I had countless nights of lack of sleep when I was coaching against the two of them trying to figure out how to shut them down,” Reirden said, “And then it's been great to obviously now come over and watch how they coexist.”
That formula has brought the team incredible success, culminating in the franchise’s first Stanley Cup championship in 2018.
“The only thing we do is do something we love, we play hockey together and we're good friends,” Backstrom said. “We've been playing together for a long time, but the most important thing, we've got a championship together.”
From Ovechkin announcing that the Capitals had selected Backstrom in the draft all the way up to when they both held the Cup together, skating across the ice in Vegas, their careers also will forever be linked because of how they have helped one another along the way.
“We have both our families now, but at the same time, I think every time we hang out, it's like the first time we met,” Backstrom said. “We're always having fun together which is a great thing I think which we're going to keep enjoying as long as we're together.”
“It's just a pleasure to be able to coach two guys from two different countries, totally different guys, yet they're like brothers now,” Reirden said. “It's amazing to watch and to think that for 900 games they've been tormenting other teams is something pretty special and will be fun to celebrate that with them against New Jersey.”
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