Batman and Robin. Kirk and Spock. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. Heck, peanut butter and jelly or Netflix and chill. How ever you care to liken the two, they simply go together. As Alex Ovechkin so famously once said, “we are a duo.”
Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom have played in more games for the Washington Capitals than any other players in franchise history. For the vast majority of those games, the two have been linemates, with Backstrom playing center and Ovechkin playing left wing. The game between the Capitals and Calgary Flames on Tuesday night marks the 1,000th NHL game in which both Ovechkin and Backstrom played together.
Match Made In Hockey Heaven
Even as early as the 2006 NHL Entry Draft, the Capitals envisioned a partnership between Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom. Going into that draft, the Capitals’ objective was to find a franchise center to partner with Ovechkin, their franchise star. After identifying Backstrom to be that center, the Capitals had Ovechkin walk up to the draft podium to announce that pick. The relationship started at that moment and continues today.
Backstrom remained in Sweden for the 2006-07 season but came over for the 2007-08 season. He played in his first NHL game on October 5, 2007, but did not play on the same line as Ovechkin that day. Instead, he played as a left winger on the second line which was centered by Michael Nylander.
Backstrom mostly played left wing during his first month with the team. But in early November, Coach Glen Hanlon decided to switch Backstrom to his more natural position of center.
After a coaching change to Bruce Boudreau, Backstrom started on the fourth line. But by the end of the season he was on the top line with Ovechkin as the team made the Stanley Cup playoffs.
A Perfect Fit
The next several seasons saw the two share the top line together, except for times when coaches decided to juggle the lines in search of an offensive spark or if somebody was injured.
Their time together was usually spent on teams that would do well in the regular season and ultimately make the playoffs, winning three President’s Trophies (2009-10, 2015-16, and 2016-17) and a Stanley Cup Championship (2017-18).
Their personalities couldn’t be more different, yet that’s part of the reason why it’s worked all these years. They fit together like yin and yang, sweet and sour or tequila and salt.
Their chemistry on the ice has been undeniable, but that doesn’t mean they haven’t had their share of shouting matches. No, quite the opposite. But as both have publicly stated, it’s part of what makes them such a great tandem.
“Yes, he’s the one I’m yelling at the most on the team. We have played together all the years I have been here, most of the time on the same line and I’m the one he has been yelling at the most. We have had real fights in the room, many times, when we have been standing there and yelled at each other,” Backstrom told Expressen [a Swedish publication] back in 2016.
You were both mad for real? “Yes, for real. What is it usually about? “It usually starts with that fact that one of us has started the game pretty bad, a little sleepy, or not focused, and then you get to hear it – and then you wake up. We have huge respect for each other, we are listening to one another and then goes out and do what we are going to do.
Ovechkin agrees with Backstrom’s take. “Sometimes, you get mad at him,” Ovechkin said. “Sometimes, he get mad at me. When he is hard on me and I’m hard on him, it’s normal. There are moments in the game when I disagree with what he thinks and he disagrees with what I think. But it’s a normal process. We enjoy it.”
On December 19, 2019, the dynamic duo played in their 900th NHL game together. Now they are playing in their 1000th game together. Ovechkin will be playing in his 1,251th NHL game overall while Backstrom will be playing in his 1,034th NHL game.
The two have compiled impressive careers, to say the least, with Ovechkin becoming the Leader in goals and points for the franchise, as well as games played. Ovechkin has also climbed the NHL goal scoring lists and currently has 764 goals, which is fourth on the all time list.
Backstrom became the team leader in assists and is in second place for most games played for the franchise. Ovechkin passed Calle Johansson for most games played on February 26, 2018. Ovechkin played in his 1000th NHL game on April 2, 2018. Last season, on April 15, 2021 Backstrom played in his 1000th game.
1️⃣,0️⃣0️⃣0️⃣ games together for the @NHL‘s greatest duo!
Join us Tuesday at 8 p.m. for a special one-hour @Capitals Pregame Live featuring an exclusive interview with Alex Ovechkin & Nicklas Backstrom: https://t.co/Cj5RtmQDYV#ALLCAPS pic.twitter.com/sWhQ8K8BFu
— NBC Sports Capitals (@NBCSCapitals) March 7, 2022
Many of their career milestones have been with one another. Backstrom earned an assist on Ovechkin’s 1000th career point, which came in a 5-2 victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins on January 11, 2017.
On December 20, 2019, the duo played in their 900th game together, in a game where Backstrom had two goals and two assists, with one of those assists being on an Ovechkin goal. He earned his 900th NHL point in that game.
All love for Ovi & Backy from Bruce ❤️️
— NBC Sports Capitals (@NBCSCapitals) March 8, 2022
They were even partners during the NHL lockout of 2012-13. Ovechkin had returned to his old team from Russia, Moscow Dynamo, and recruited Backstrom to join him.
“Two guys that were I guess born for each other, that were made for each other.” ❤️
— NBC Sports Capitals (@NBCSCapitals) March 8, 2022
I think we can speak for the entirety of Caps nation when we say thanks to Alex and Nick for allowing us to come along for the ride. What a ride it’s been.
By Diane Doyle