Both Evgeny Kuznetsov and Nicklas Backstrom have had fantastic seasons for this first-place Washington Capitals team. NoVa Caps discusses special “sauce”, and who might be the better passer.
Both players were selected to go to their first NHL all-star game, and both players rank in the top-7 in assists this season. Kuznetsov leads the league in primary assists with 42, while Backstrom leads the league in power play assists with 27.
Kuznetsov and Backstrom are pretty different players with much different styles of play, but they both are incredible passers. Kuzy and Backy are arguably the best 1-2 punch when it comes to passers in the NHL. To start some good discussion, the NoVa Caps team discussed an interesting question: Who is the better passer, Evgeny Kuznetsov or Nicklas Backstrom?
We want to hear from you! Please join in on the discussion. Here are the opinions of some of the NoVa Caps team members on the topic:
Kuznetsov is the better passer, Backstrom is the better playmaker (Scott Zweibel) – Kuznetsov simply has amazing hands. It does not matter whether or not he can ‘see’ his intended target, as Kuzya has the puck distribution skills to gets pucks through defenders, around defenders, and can seemingly bend time and space behind the net creating lay up goals for Ovi, Oshie, Williams, and Orlov (so far this season). The young Russian (both in scoring touch and passing the puck) simply has some of the silkiest mitts in hockey.
Backstrom has a way of ‘seeing’ the ice that most do not. He has awareness of his line mates, an uncanny ability to ‘feel’ out gaps in the opposition, and to exploit them as he sets up in the offensive zone. He is patient with the puck, and a strong puck possessor. Backstrom not only possesses a great set of hands, a cool head, and a strong frame, but a criminally insane set of eyes. He uses his vision to make those plays that others never saw coming.
Best 1-2 punch in the NHL, and it’s impossible to pick one player over the other.
Kuzy brings aggressiveness while Backstrom brings patience (George Foussekis) – Backstrom has tremendous vision with the puck, and he is able to fit the puck into very tight spaces. He is very cerebral with his passing, and he is very patient with the puck. He will wait his opposition out until the very last second to get a very slim lane to open.
Kuznetsov is a little more assertive with his passes. He likes to hold on to the puck, and he likes to be aggressive with his passes, especially behind the opposition’s net. He also has the unique ability of making a good slap pass to his teammates in front of the net. Kuzy can sometimes force the puck into lanes that may not be there, and the puck can still end up in the back of the net because he is just so creative.
We need to see more years from Kuznetsov (Diane Doyle) – Very hard to choose between them, as they are both great passers. We have a greater body of work to draw from for Backstrom than we do from Kuzy. This year, in the advanced statistics (Corsi For and Fenwick For), Kuzy is marginally better than Backstrom, but There was a wide discrepancy between them last year in that department, with Backstrom having much better Corsi For and Fenwick For percentages. I feel I would need Kuzy to have more good years in his body of work before considering him a better player and passer than Backstrom.
From an anecdotal standpoint, I will never forget the pass that Kuzy made to Wilson for a goal late in the 2013-2014 season. I will also remember so many great passes by Backstrom that Ovi (and other players) received and later scored.
Comparing apples to oranges, different skill sets (Andrei Poleshchuck, Michael Marzzacco) – Both are tremendously skilled in their own right. Backstrom is more of a playmaker who can dish out nice feed through passes to his wingers, and is very solid with regular passes. Kuznetsov is a wizard with the puck who can use his speed and agility to sneak past through defenders as well as make incredible “no-look” passes behind the goalie trapezoid. Kuznetsov never ceases to amaze. Both Kuznetsov and Backstrom are tremendous passers and truly set the table to keep Washington a top offensive threat.
Kuznetsov has the kind of ability that can’t be taught (Stephanie Judge, Gabe Mead) – Nicky’s strength is precision. He is laser focused with a high awareness of everything that is happening on the ice. His passes are crisp. He plays a more studied and purposeful game. Backstrom rarely makes bad decisions with his passes, and his patience and puck possession skills open up so many opportunities for his teammates.
Kuzy is more of a finesse player. He makes the passes and has a high hockey acumen too, but it seems intuitive, less formulaic and more natural – the kind of ability that can’t be taught. He has a feel for the game that most others could only dream of having. “Yer a Wizard Kuzy”
Kuznetsov is more creative, Backstrom is more calulative (Michael Fleetwood) -Kuznetsov gets a little more creative when he passes the puck, such as when he throws the puck back to the person in front of the net while he’s going behind the net, and his passes are quick and sharp.
Backstrom is also a great passer, but his passes are more calculated and he possesses an ability to keep the puck under his control a lot longer than most would. Kuzy hasn’t caught up to him in the puck control department but I think both are around the same when it comes to passing.
Caps fans – who do you think is the better Passer? We want to hear from you!
By Gabe Mead