Comparing Seasons: Nicklas Backstrom

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Posted April 11, 2017

(Caps Outsider)

Another year, another dominating campaign by the most underrated player in the NHL.

Nicklas Backstrom once again finished the season among the league leaders in assists and points, continuing his trend of dominating the league while flying under the radar. This year’s more popular story lines included the breakout season of 20-year-old phenom Connor McDavid, who hit 100 points for the first time in his promising career, and the resurgence of Sidney Crosby, who battled a concussion early on in the season.

For Backstrom, he posted his highest point total since the 2009-10 season, tallying 23 goals and adding 63 assists, good for 86 points which turned out to be a 16-point increase on last year’s totals. Backstrom was far and away the best player on the ice for the Capitals most of the season, one in which linemate Alex Ovechkin scored 17 fewer goals than last year, something that one would assume would have a major impact on the former’s point totals.

Compared to the three players that finished ahead of him in points this season – McDavid, Crosby, and Patrick Kane – Backstrom saw much less ice time. In fact, the closest one of those three to Backstrom’s 18 minutes and 15 seconds of average time on ice was Crosby, who skated an average of 19 minutes and 52 seconds per game. For Backstrom, it was the lowest average since his rookie season.

via @ineffectivemath (hockeyviz.com)

The beauty of the matter here was that Backstrom simply did not need to play as much as in year’s past. This year’s squad was arguably the deepest ever in D.C. Another encouraging sign from this season was that Backstrom showed more willingness to shoot the puck. He recorded 33 more shots this year compared to last, which was welcomed due to the fact that he always shows off a nice shot – albeit one that he often wouldn’t use in previous years.

Number 19 once again established himself as one of the elite hockey players in the entire world this season. Everything that he does on the ice looks easy, and he continued to be a driving force behind the success of the Washington Capitals. Backstrom may not be appreciated throughout the league as much as he should be, but every Capitals fan should truly cherish the ability to watch him as he seems to only get better with age.

Bradley Davis

Bradley Davis

Brad is a recent graduate of Salisbury University looking to pursue a career in sports media. He is a huge Capitals fan and also roots hard for the Ravens and Orioles.
Bradley Davis