Photo by Francois Lacasse/NHLI via Getty Images
The Capitals’ 6-4 win against the Montreal Canadiens on Saturday may have been vital in the tight race in the Metropolitan Division, but it was also an illustration of star center Nicklas Backstrom’s worth and importance to the team. The longtime Capital recorded four assists (of which three came in the opening period) and was perhaps the team’s best player throughout the night.
The four-assist game was the 11th of Backstrom’s career, which ranks first among active players. The former first-round pick (sixth overall in 2006) leads his draft class in helpers with 582 and is arguably, the most underrated player in the NHL. Backstrom’s four-assist night was also his 20th career game with four points and the second such game of his this season. Backstrom has always made the players around him better, something that was not lost on right wing Tom Wilson, who scored two goals in the win:
Backstrom is one of the best players in the history of the Capitals and his spectacular night in Montreal will no doubt be a highlight this season. Voted by his fellow NHLers as the league’s most underrated player several weeks ago, Backstrom continues to pile up the points without too much fanfare, something that the cerebral pivot doesn’t seem to mind as much as the thousands of fans who see him play on a nightly basis. Backstrom now has 61 points (19 goals, 42 assists) in 74 games played this season and while not exactly as high as the last few seasons, a slow start has played a part in those numbers.
Backstrom’ four assists also put him one point away from sole possession of third-place in franchise history in points (Mike Gartner’s 789), and his 11 career four-assist games are the second-most by any player in the last 25 seasons by any player (behind only Pittsburgh Penguin great and Hockey Hall of Faner Mario Lemieux, who last accomplished the feat in 2003).
Backstrom’s importance to this team should never be undermined, and fans, coaches, and especially his teammates clearly appreciate what the Super Swede brings to the rink each and every night. Backstrom has been the team’s number one center throughout his career, and that doesn’t appear to be changing anytime soon. His four-point performance says all that needs to be said.
By Michael Fleetwood