Final report card: Nicklas Backstrom

Final report card: Nicklas Backstrom
April 22, 2014, 2:30 pm
Share This Post Capitals Insider Chuck Gormley will evaluate the 2013-14 performance of each player on the Caps roster. One breakdown will occur every weekday in alphabetical order. Today: Nicklas Backstrom

Position: Center

Shoots: Left

Age: 26 [turns 27 Nov. 23]

Ht/Wt: 6-1, 208

Games: 82

Goals: 18

Assists: 61

Points: 79

Penalty Minutes: 54

Plus-Minus: Minus-20

Average Ice Time: 19:48

Contract Status: 6 years remaining on 10-year, $67 million contract [$6.7 million cap hit in 2013-14]

Strengths: Aside from a 101-point season in 2009-10, Backstrom has been a point-a-game player throughout most of his seven-year career with the Capitals and that was no different this season. One of the NHL’s top playmakers, Backstrom’s 61 assists ranked third in the NHL, behind only Sidney Crosby [68] and Joe Thornton [65]. Backstrom also led the NHL with 38 power-play assists and 44 power-play points.

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Weaknesses: Take away all of those power-play points and a lone shorthanded goal and Backstrom managed just 34 even-strength points in 82 games. He also took a career-high 54 minutes in penalties and his 27 minors led the team, along with defenseman Mike Green.

Quotable: “Me personally, I wasn’t good 5-on-5. We were too much minus. We were on for lots of goals, so that’s the area we need to clean up.”

Memorable Moment: On Dec. 10 against the Tampa Bay Lightning, Backstrom orchestrated the Caps’ most remarkable comeback of the season, assisting on all four of Alex Ovechkin’s goals and scoring one himself as the Caps erased a three-goal deficit en route to a 6-5 shootout win.

Forgettable Moment: Can anyone forget the morning of Feb. 23, when Backstrom was banned from the Olympic gold medal game between Sweden and Canada after testing positive for pseudoephedrine, found in the allergy medication he was taking? It was one of the most humiliating moments of Backstrom’s otherwise illustrious hockey career, tempered only by the IOC’s decision to award Backstrom a silver medal.

2014-15 Expectations: If the Capitals hope to become a Stanley Cup contender they’ll need Backstrom to improve his 9.2 percent shooting percentage and become a stronger presence in the defensive zone. Backstrom is clearly capable of recording 80 points, but he’ll need to be on the plus-20 side and not the minus-20 side of the Caps are to be a threat.