As the George Harrison of the Washington Capitals, Nick Backstrom is the Quiet One. He’s not flashy and he doesn’t hog the spotlight. He seems almost pathologically humble. We’ve been hearing for so long that he’s underrated– but is he really, truly a great hockey player?
Yes. Yes, he is.
|20:32||Average time on ice per game|
|54.2%||Shot attempt percentage during 5v5|
|50.0%||Goal percentage during 5v5|
Backstrom’s on-ice shot-attempt percentage in 10-game running segments, from War on Ice:
I’m gonna toe a delicate line here, so if at any time it seems like I dislike Backstrom, that means only that I failed to articulate myself well.
Nick Backstrom had a disappointing season. His possession jumped 6 percentage points during 5v5 (from 48.3 to 54.2), and yet– ridiculously– I’m still disappointed. Maybe it’s because Backstrom’s 5v5 goal scoring hasn’t kept up with possession. The Caps hardly outscored their competition when Nicky was on the ice during 5v5, and that’s not right. That doesn’t befit his talents. Backstrom played nearly 75 games next to Alex Ovechkin, a little over 1000 minutes or about 82 percent of his 5v5 ice time, but it seems that shooting percentages turned what should have been a dominant season during even strength into a more modest one. For all his understated splendor, Backstrom doesn’t seem to be one of those rare players who drives shooting percentages, and that bums me out.
Individually, and I think this part is important, Backstrom actually shot less during 5v5 than in any other season– even the awful Oates seasons. Backstrom distributed the puck more evenly to his wingers (usually Ovechkin and random right wingers) this season, but he seemed less an individual threat despite his 13 goals on a 12.15 shooting percentage.
And then there’s the postseason, where Backstrom scored three goals in the first four games and then went on to take — ehh — hardly over one shot per game from there on out. He recorded just two more assists in the Caps’ final ten games, both secondary assists. In a series so tight, the scarceness of offense hurt.
But judging a player based on a tiny sample of games at the end of the season– even if those games are all-important– isn’t fair. I think it’s just emblematic of Nick Backstrom’s fame so far. He’s good. We all know he’s good– even if no one talks about it. But it’s time for him to do something that’ll make people talk.
We know Nicky is great on the half wall of the power play. Let’s see him close that gap from Ovi’s far circle and drive to the net. Let’s see the Caps broaden their 5v5 attack by making Nick a real shooting option on the rush.
Basically, I want to see Nick Backstrom at the all-star game.
Does it matter to you that Nick Backstrom is perpetually underrated? And if everyone considers someone underrated, are they still overrated? Aren’t they just rated? What is the sound of one hand clapping and what is Backstrom’s favorite ice cream flavor? Just kidding: we know it’s vanilla. I don’t know why people say vanilla it’s boring; it’s actually pretty great. Just like Nicky.
Read more: Japers Rink
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