Nicklas Backstrom leads the Capitals with 17 assists and, with six more, the 29-year-old will reach 500 for his career.
After a decade of following Backstrom here in Washington, you’ve probably read a couple dozen quotes about his impressive skill set and what separates him from other playmakers. I have, as well. But the other day Barry Trotz shared a few thoughts I found particularly illuminating as it pertains to Backstrom's ridiculous patience with the puck.
Here’s what the veteran head coach had to say:
Nick is as slick as anybody with the puck. He’s got great patience. He’s got really great deception in his game. His pulse rate is very low when it comes to panic level, especially in tight quarters. And then he’s accurate. He’s smart. He understands what the next move is. He’s sort of that chess player—he’s making a move now in order to create another move and they all stack up to help him to find someone open. He’s got that great ability, vision and sense of awareness that is elite.
Nick’s panic circle is very tight. Other players, their panic circle is a little broader or wider. And when [defenders] start to get in that circle, those players tend to move the puck or move it right at that moment because they feel like they’ve got pressure. Nick’s [circle] is very tight. He never feels that he’s under pressure and that gives him that split second to open up a lane or an area. A [defender] moves his stick six inches, it gives [Backstrom] that extra six inches. He’s such a patient guy and has such a low panic point that he’s able to get the puck to people.
Five hundred is a big number, no doubt. And when he gets there, it'll make Backstrom the 10th Swedish-born player to join the club, according to www.hockey-reference.com. The others? Nicklas Lidstrom, Mats Sundin, Henrik Sedin, Daniel Alfredsson, Borje Salming, Peter Forsberg, Daniel Sedin, Thomas Steen and Henrik Zetterberg.
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