A Look at Tom Wilson & Nicklas Backstrom’s Returns in Capitals’ 1-0 Win Over Blue Jackets

Photos: John McCreary/Scott Taetsch/NHLI via Getty Images

The Washington Capitals earned a 1-0 shutout victory over the Columbus Blue Jackets Sunday evening at Capital One Arena. The win wasn’t pretty overall, but it felt better with the returns of right-wing Tom Wilson and center Nicklas Backstrom.

It’s without a doubt that Wilson and Backstrom’s 2022-23 season debuts were much anticipated, especially in recent weeks, as head coach Peter Laviolette hinted both were “pretty close.”

Caps faithful gave both players a warm welcome back as they were announced for the starting lineup:

The Numbers

Wilson recorded 14:10 on the ice, one shot on goal, and six hits. Backstrom registered 14:03 of ice time, one shot on goal, three hits, and had a 70% face-off percentage.

Additionally, Backstrom returned to the first power-play unit, spending 2:45 on the man advantage throughout the evening. Wilson joined the second unit and saw 1:13 on the power play during the game.

A look at the team’s expected goals for percentage at even strength, with Wilson having nearly 80% while Backstrom stayed around 30%:

The Future

It will likely take several games for Wilson (underwent ACL surgery on May 25) and Backstrom (underwent hip resurfacing surgery on June 2) to fire on all cylinders, as we’ve seen before. Still, the fact both Capitals stars have made their first appearance this season is an encouraging sign now and for what’s to come.

“It felt a little bit better than I thought out there,” Wilson expressed regarding his knee. We all know Wilson to be a physical player, but not quite at the moment. A scrum involving him almost happened, as Wilson noted, “[Blue Jackets’ Mathieu Olivier] wanted to fight and I just said, ‘hey, give me a game to get my body back into it here. I had to politely decline.'”

Wilson told the media on January 4 that he and Backstrom have been close throughout their recoveries as both had similar timetables on return. He reiterated that again postgame, saying, “Backy just has that demeanor that makes everyone around him better…it’s really inspiring and he’s been a huge inspiration for me throughout the whole process.”

“It meant the world,” Backstrom said on taking the ice again. “Obviously, I missed this and with not knowing what my future was going to hold, just coming back and playing was great.”

As mentioned, both players received standing ovations from fans as they were announced. Backstrom said it was “amazing,” and he “couldn’t have asked for anything else.” “It was something special that’s for sure…moments like that, you’re never gonna forget.”

On Wednesday, the Capitals clash next with the Philadelphia Flyers at Wells Fargo Center. NBC Sports Washington+ will have the coverage beginning at 7 PM ET.

By Della Young

About Della Young

Della Young is an aspiring novelist and screenwriter who earned a BFA in Creative Writing from Full Sail University in 2021. She is currently pursuing a Master of Arts in Screenwriting from Regent University. Della comes from a family of big Capitals fans and became inspired to start writing for hockey in 2019. In her spare time, she enjoys traveling, cooking, and working on both sides of the camera. Follow Della on Twitter: @dellayoung
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1 Response to A Look at Tom Wilson & Nicklas Backstrom’s Returns in Capitals’ 1-0 Win Over Blue Jackets

  1. Jonathan says:

    I think the expected goals graph shows that it was a tough game for most of the players. All the lines were new. I feel especially bad for Eller, because from observation over several seasons now, he really comes into his own when he’s with the same guys, especially if there shows some chemistry. Johannson, Eller, and a couple other options on wing like Mantha or NAK. You can see the timing is off on passes and positioning when he’s with new guys. Both the 2nd and 3rd lines were totally revamped, but each line had a new person. I mean, what’s with Johansson on the 4h line?

    But I get it….it’s the debut of Wilson and Backy and vs the worst team in the league…or near worst….so they could ‘afford’ the timing issues, to get the new guys out there. Going forward, I’d rather see Wilson on the 1st or 4th lines, even though he’s spent a lot of time previously with Kuzy. Perhaps put Ovi with Kuzy and Wilson and Backy on that 2nd line. Weird, but my thinking was to sit Sheery. Sit Sheery. Am I nuts? We’ve a cluster of bodies, and no place to put them. How about we start 13 forwards and 6 d? Nobody would notice.

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