Nicklas Backstrom conducted a Swedish language interview with Daniel Sandström of the Gefle Dagblad earlier in the week after handing out his annual scholarship to two lucky young sports stars at Valbo’s NickBack Arena.
Backstrom answered questions about a multitude of topics, including the 2020-21 season in Washington where the Swedish center led the Capitals in points (55), power-play points (22), assists (38). During the pandemic-shortened year, the Capitals were re-aligned into the East Division and played each of their seven divisional rivals eight times before entering the playoffs. The Capitals lost in the first round, for the third consecutive season, to the Boston Bruins.
“It was good in a way, playing the same teams over and over again and didn’t have any long trips,” Backstrom said to Sandström as translated by RMNB’s Magnus Cadelin. “But all the COVID tests were annoying, we got tested all the time. Twice on game days. But we all got vaccinated in April.”
Despite a strong start where he led the team in goals during the first half of the season, Backstrom appeared to hit a wall at the very end of the year. He sat out the second-to-last game of the season due to a lower-body injury and was a nonfactor against the Bruins in the playoffs, tallying only one point, an assist, in five games.
After the Capitals’ season concluded, Backstrom turned down an opportunity to play for Team Sweden in the 2021 World Championship due to the lower-body injury. Aftonbladet’s Per Bjurman reported that “Bäckström has a problem with his hip.”
“He has an injury which I think caught up with him at the end and made it worse,” Capitals GM Brian MacLellan said. “He struggled to be at 100 percent. Nick had a great year. He led our team. He was top 20, 21 in scoring. Really happy with the year he had. Unfortunately, he got worn down at the end.
“We don’t know (if he’ll need surgery),” he added. “I think they’re going through it now with the trainers. They’re going to talk to some doctors and see what the plan is moving forward to manage it.”
In Backstrom’s interview with Gefle Dagblad, he said that “I had surgery on [my hip] six years ago and then it was fine. Now, to be honest, it’s so-so.”
Backstrom was unsure if he would have been able to do a long playoff run.
“It’s always possible,” he said. “It’s just a question about what level you’re able to play.”
Backstrom admitted that the condensed schedule was a struggle.
“Sometimes we played seven games in eleven days,” Backstrom said. “Obviously, it took a toll on the body.”
Backstrom underwent an arthroscopic procedure on his hip in June 2015. “I’ve been in pain since sometime in November (2014) so we had to fix it,” Backstrom said then.
Backstrom, now 33, admitted that training and working out is more difficult as he’s entering the final years of his NHL career.
“You have to train smart to stay in shape,” Backstrom said. “When I was in my 20’s I could do two workouts a day and play some tennis in between. Now it’s more about doing the exercise I know my body can handle.”
Backstrom said it’s all about preparation.
“Well, obviously,” he said. “To find the right model to be ready and be able to play games. But I think I’ll benefit from a normal season this fall. Even if it’s 82 games and playoffs, it’s over a longer period of time and not four games per week, it’s two or three.”
In January 2020, Backstrom signed a five-year, $46 million extension that will keep him in DC until through 2025.
“I still think hockey is fun,” he said. “But you have to work with the mental parts of the game to stay on your toes. I still love this job, I’m very lucky to play in the NHL.”
Headline photo: Elizabeth Kong/RMNB
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