If there’s one thing that the Capitals and their fans have come to appreciate over the last 12 seasons, it’s the consistency and production that star center Nicklas Backstrom has shown and given since entering the NHL in 2007-08. This season has been no different, and as has become an all-too (and unfortunate) common occurrence, he continues to fly under the radar outside of Washington.
In 75 games played this season, Backstrom is producing at just under a point-per-game, with 18 goals and 51 assists for 69 points, with a plus-4 rating while averaging 20:00 minutes a night for Head Coach Todd Reirden. Just two goals shy of his fourth consecutive 20-goal season (and the sixth of his career), Backstrom’s offensive production is again among the leaders on the team, as he ranks seventh in goals, second in assists (to only John Carlson’s 53), and second in points (to Alex Ovechkin’s 84).
The 2018-19 season has seen Backstrom reach franchise/personal milestones, as he’s reached the 600-assist and 800-point marks for his career, and has climbed the franchise record books in the process. Backstrom’s defensive play this season has also continued to show why he is arguably, the Caps’ best all-around forward, as he ranks seventh (among skaters who have played at 30 games this season) in Corsi For % with a 50.0 rating, and ranks third in takeaways with 48.
But Backstrom’s production throughout his career has been largely overlooked by those outside Washington and when one looks at his numbers, it is simply baffling why. Over the last five seasons, Backstrom ranks second in assists (335) to only Pittsburgh Penguins’ center Sidney Crosby (who has just three more assists), 10th in points, and first in power play points (193), and he leads all members of the 2006 Draft Class (he was drafted with the 4th overall pick by the Capitals) in assists (641), points (868, 52 more than Phil Kessel, who is second), and second in Games Played, fourth in Goals, and third in Plus/Minus and finished second in Calder Memorial Trophy Voting (Rookie of the Year) in his inaugural season. Additionally, he has finished in the Top 20 in Selke Trophy (Best Defensive Forward) voting in five of his 12 seasons.
Backstrom’s performance this season has contributed to the Capitals’ success this season, as they sit in first-place in the Metropolitan Division with six games left to play in the regular season. After a strong performance en route to the team’s Stanley Cup championship last spring (23 points in 20 games played), Backstrom’s productivity will be needed come the 2019 playoffs. Capitals fans will no doubt see the value and production Backstrom will bring, but he will most likely go unnoticed by those outside D.C., which, while not a big deal to the Caps’ star pivot, is unfortunate nonetheless.
By Michael Fleetwood