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Washington Capitals: Nicklas Backstrom 2020 Report Card

Nicklas Backstrom, Washington Capitals (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
Nicklas Backstrom, Washington Capitals (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images) /

TIme to grade Nicklas Backstrom’s 13th Washington Capitals season.

Nicklas Backstrom has always been a backbone for this Washington Capitals team in his 13 years in Washington. Backstrom is consistently the top playmaker for the Capitals and he continued that streak in the 2019-20 season.

Backstrom finished second in assists with 42 for Washington this season behind a team-leading 60 assists from John Carlson, who finished second for the Norris Trophy.  He also scored 12 goals for a total of 54 points in 61 games played in this year’s shortened regular season.

Backstrom has not put up the flashy numbers in recent seasons as he has in the past, but the things he does well are more valuable to the Capitals than All-Star seasons.

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Backstrom has continued his playmaking ability by putting up consistent numbers in the assist column but also being a vital part of the always deadly Washington power-play. Backstrom put up 18 power-play points in the 2019-20 season which compared to full 82 game seasons isn’t as much of a dip as it seems. Backstrom also has seen a dip in his own production on the power-play as Carlson has come into his prime in his role at the top of the key.

Backstrom has also proven his value as being a major contributor on both sides of the puck. He has always been considered one of the best two-way forwards in the game and he continues to be very useful in that role. Backstrom ended the regular season with a -1 plus/minus which is definitely a step backward from some of his past seasons.

Backstrom was mediocre in the faceoff circle for the Caps this season. He was 52.7% on defensive zone faceoffs, helping keep opponents from maintaining possession in their zone over half the time. He was only 47.2% in the offensive zone. He had a total faceoff win percentage of 49.2% this season which ranked him tied for 69th in the NHL.

Certainly, a look at his 2019-2020 campaign reveals that Backstrom’s production does not match the years when he was getting snubbed from All-Star games and award considerations. But Backstrom’s value to the Capitals has not decreased since then. He has become a silent leader that demands respect from all his teammates and opponents. He mentors younger players including Jakub Vrana and Connor McMichael. Though these numbers may not make your eyes pop he is still a consistent top six center.

Grade B-: Backstrom had an off year but was able to be one of the top producers for the caps offense this past season. Though his best years are probably behind him at this point, he continued to be a top six forward and can hopefully bounce back with a season worthy of the number one center in Washington.

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