If Barry Trotz looked a little taller than normal behind the podium at the Caps’ practice rink on Monday, it’s because he was up on a soap box extolling the virtues of Capitals center Nicklas Backstrom, who on Tuesday night is scheduled to play in his 600th NHL game when the Red Wings visit Verizon Center.
“Because no one talks about him,” Trotz said, acknowledging Backstrom as one of the most underrated players in the NHL. “A point-a-game guy in this league is pretty incredible.”
In 599 NHL games Backstrom has 154 goals and 440 assists for 594 points, including nine goals and 13 assists for 22 points in 22 games this season. And yet he’s never played in an NHL All-Star Game. This year’s midseason showcase will be in Nashville on Jan. 30.
“He should be in one very shortly – like Nashville would be a good place for him to start,” Trotz said. “He doesn’t get enough recognition on how good he is. I knew he was good, I just didn’t realize how good he was until I saw him a daily basis.”
Asked if playing in the shadow of Alex Ovechkin has kept Backstrom out of the public limelight, Trotz said the quiet way Backstrom plays might also play a factor.
“Personality wise, Alex has the gift of catching your eye,” Trotz said. “He’s a loud player. The big shot. Walking through people with some of his moves. The big hits. And there’s this quiet guy that plays with him that gets him the puck. He does all the little cool stuff.
“To me he’s a terrific player that doesn’t get enough recognition. He should be a Selke winner (as the NHL’s top two-way forward) one of these years but no one even mentions him, and he should play in an All-Star Game starting this year.
“I believe that. I know if 29 other coaches were standing where I’m standing they’d be saying the same thing.”
Other milestones: Caps right wing Justin Williams is one point shy of 600 in his NHL career. He has 599 points in 943 games. Braden Holtby is scheduled to play in his 200th NHL games, while defenseman Matt Niskanen is set to play in Game No. 599. Meanwhile, Trotz is one win away from passing Bryan Murray (620) and moving into 10th place in all-time coaching victories.