Washington Capitals Grades: Nicklas Backstrom 2021 Report Card

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

Nicklas Backstrom is a player Washington Capitals fans rarely, if ever, have to worry about. In terms of production, the slumps usually do not last all that long for number nineteen. While offensive slumps don’t last that long Backstrom is also a very good, and a very underrated two way center.

Every pre-season you can nearly automatically give Backstrom 70-82 points. Since 2013-14 he has hit this range five times and was on pace to hit this range the past two shortened seasons. Only three times in his fourteen year NHL career has Backstrom gone over the point per game mark. He did it in 2008-09, 2009-10 and didn’t do it again until 2016-17 and hasn’t done it since.

He also has only scored over 25 goals once in his career, that came in the 2009-10 season as well. If you took away his 33 he scored that season his career high in goals is just 23 which he scored in 2016-17.

I’m not trying to take anything away from Backstrom. What I’m trying to say is he is not as flashy or as dynamic offensively as I think his reputation says he is. Backstrom is much more of a two hundred foot, solid and consistent player. I think he was much of the same in 2021.

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Although, while his stats were consistent by seasons end when you look at the start that he had maybe his stats are a little underwhelming. Backstrom finished the season playing in 55 games, he scored 15 goals, dished out 38 assists for a total of 53 points.

He was clearly the early season MVP for this team. In the first two months or so of the season Backstrom scored 10 goals and put up 25 points in the teams first 21 games. In the last two and a half months he played in 34 games and scored only 5 goals and had 28 points in that time.

The second half of the season is nothing to sneeze at. It’s still pretty good and probably more Backstrom like with the lack of goals and just under a point per game. That just shows you how much he slowed down after the hot start.

If you look at Backstrom’s advanced numbers I think you could say they look “incredibly average”. Here are his numbers while 5v5 for the regular season.

Corsi % – 50%

Scoring Chance For % – 50.09%

High Danger Attempts % – 48.04%

Expected Goals For % – 50.31%

Out of all the games and minutes he played Backstrom finished with a 50% Corsi rating. He had 665 shot attempts for and 665 against while on the ice. He also had 281 scoring chances for while being on the ice for 280 against. With all of that being pointed out he was on the ice for 43 goals and had only 28 goals scored against while 5v5. If you want to compare that to another Caps star, Alex Ovechkin was on the ice for 37 goals and 29 against. He also played 10 fewer games than Backstrom.

Something I’d like to point out is Backstrom had 30 takeaways this season. Just to compare to someone everyone knows, Patrice Bergeron, a guy known for being a top defensive forward, a four time Selke award winner and a finalist again in 2021, he had 29 takeaways.

In the playoffs, you could count on one hand the amount of players who were good and effective and unfortunately you would have fingers to spare. Backstrom would probably not make that hand. I honestly thought Backstrom was one of the worst looking Capitals of the playoffs.

A lot of that is due to injury. He missed time at the end of the season due to a lower body injury and it clearly affected him in the series vs the Bruins. He looked very, very slow and in my opinion, overall just did not look good. His playoff numbers looked like this.

1 assists, 1 point in 5 games

Corsi % – 44.08%

Scoring Chance For % – 40.85%

High Danger Attempts % – 36.36%

Expected Goals For % – 36.71%

It was just a poor playoffs for Backstrom and the entire Capitals team. Again, injury has a lot to do with that. The team and players won’t use it as an excuse, but when you look at the injury list at the end of the season, you can use injuries as an excuse. Maybe they don’t beat Boston, but they put up a better fight than they did. Same can be said for Backstrom.

More. Washington Capitals Grades: Michael Raffl 2021 Report Card. light

Grade A-: Take the injury plagued playoff out of the equation and I think Backstrom had a very good season. Most of the season was typical Nicklas Backstrom I think, and he came flying out of the gates which I think boosts his grade up a bit. If Backstrom is a solid player that means every year he is probably a B+ at least, but being the team MVP for a good portion of the season I think brings the grade up a bit.