Spotlight on the Opponent: Nicklas Backstrom

What: Washington at Detroit
When: Friday, November 15, 7:30pm (TV: FSD, NHLN-US)

nickbackstromNicklas Backstrom

Alex Ovechkin of the Washington Capitals is the most prolific scorer in the NHL, post 2004-05 lockout. Since debuting as a rookie in 2005, RW Ovechkin has scored 385 goals.

But as good as Ovechkin is, he can’t create everything for himself.

On a great number of those Ovechkin goals, starting in 2007, an assist has come from Caps C Nicklas Backstrom.

Backstrom, who turns 26 in eight days, has notched 321 assists since breaking into the NHL as a 19-year-old in 2007. In fact, his assist totals per season almost mirror Ovechkin’s goal scoring.

Of course, not every Ovechkin goal has been assisted on by Backstrom—it just seems that way.

Last season, Caps coach Adam Oates had Ovechkin and Backstrom skating on different lines. The team was struggling for weeks, so Oates reunited the pair and voila! A 13-3-1 run ensued, with O&B combining for 21 goals and 49 points in that stretch leading up to the playoffs.

Kind of reminds you of Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk, eh?

The spark that Ovechkin and Backstrom provided during that hot streak that began last March came as no surprise to teammates such as Troy Brouwer.

“Nicky and Ovi have played together for quite a few number of years; they’ve got good chemistry between them,” Brouwer said at the time Oates made the move.

Like RW Todd Bertuzzi, who plays with Hank and Pavs in Detroit, the third spot on the line with O&B is one to be cherished.

For now, that spot in Washington is being filled by veteran Martin Erat, recently promoted from the fourth line.

But Backstrom is the kid who flies under the radar, and in the shadow of Ovechkin. Yet Backstrom would undoubtedly be in the top 5 of players most GMs would love to acquire.

These days, Backstrom has other things on his mind. On October 8, his girlfriend gave birth to the couple’s first child, a girl named Haley.

“It was probably the best moment in my life so far,” Backstrom said of Haley’s birth. “It’s just a great feeling when it’s all over. It’s just long, long wait. You get a combination between nervous and excited but after all, we’re all healthy, feeling good.

“It’s hard to describe the feelings. If you’ve been there yourself you understand it better. It’s a great feeling and we’re just so happy.”

And that, of course, was Backstrom’s biggest “assist.”

Backstrom wears no. 19 for the Capitals (10-8-1).


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