Nick Backstrom led the Caps in scoring in the regular season and also in the playoffs. On a team with an all-time great scorer, a Vezina-winning goalie, and the unparalleled sexual charisma of assistant coach Blaine Forsythe, it’s easy to overlook number 19. But that would be a mistake.
|18:16||time on ice per game|
|52.6||5-on-5 shot-attempt percentage, adjusted|
|61.7||5-on-5 goal percentage, adjusted|
About this visualization: This series of charts made by Micah Blake McCurdy of hockeyviz.com shows various metrics for the player over the course of the 2016-17 season. A short description of each chart:
Over and over, Nicky Backstrom has demonstrated that he’s a world-class hockey player. When we look back with fondness at the offensive prowess of the 2016-17 Washington Capitals, it would behoove us to single out Backstrom as the heart of it. He led the team in scoring in both seasons: the one that matters and the one that does not. He recorded his highest 5-on-5 point rate (2.4 per 60) since the golden days of 2010 (2.9). He led the team in point shares. He’s probably the most important player on the Caps power play.
I don’t have anything critical to say about number 19 really, but I would like to voice a warning: This won’t work forever. Backstrom will be 30 next season, and his number-one linemate will be 32. They’ll likely be without the individual offense of TJ Oshie. Returns will diminish soon. Backstrom may need to increase his (already laudable) individual participation in the offense to slow that decline.
And even if he can step it up in his relatively advanced age, Backstrom will have a hard time meeting last season’s levels. During his 5-on-5 shifts, the Caps scored 61.7 percent of goals despite taking just 52.6 of the shot attempts and having 51.7 percent of the expected goals. That is a pronounced overperformance even before we note that, technically, opponents got more scoring chances than the Caps when the first line was on the ice.
So, yeah, sorry if this turned into a bummer, but I’m not sure how much longer the Caps’ first line in its current iteration will be viable during 5-on-5. Anyway, Nicky’s great.
It was appreciated.
Nicky will be 30 next season. How much longer can we depend on him to be Washington’s most reliable player during 5-on-5? And will he ever be properly appreciated outside the DMV area?
Headline photo: Amanda Bowen
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