How the Washington Capitals will be just fine without Nicklas Backstrom

Nicklas Backstrom, Washington Capitals Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports
Nicklas Backstrom, Washington Capitals Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports /

In sports, teams can come together in times of adversity. The Washington Capitals will have that chance beginning tonight. The motto before the season was get back into the playoffs. Now there’s a new motto and that is “win for Nicklas Backstrom“.

One of the biggest hurdles facing the Caps is their age. It is still retirement home Caps but they aren’t as old as they were in the past. In fact, they were entering the season as the sixth oldest team in the NHL.

Now it’s time for the young players to step in. In particular, look at Connor McMichael to begin to breakout. What started as shifts on the wing has now changed. McMichael is back at the center position on the third line.

While McMichael is no Backstrom, the young buck can bring speed. He can pass. He can shoot. And he can score. While Backstrom is a legend, he has slowed down and this season you could tell something was ailing him.

Still it won’t be easy and when the Caps take the ice tonight against the New York Islanders they will be playing with heavy hearts knowing that their brother is not alongside them ready to go to battle.

John Carlson said after Wednesday’s practice:

"“You can tell by the feeling—it’s a little odd. Even as time goes on, it’s still going to be odd. It’s going to be odd tomorrow coming here. It’s certainly not an easy thing for any of us—or him.”"

Backstrom played in eight games this season and over the last few games his playing time declined. The 35 year old, who turns 36th this month on the 23rd, had just one assist which came on McMichael’s game winning goal in New Jersey against the Devils.

In addition to the injury catching up with him, Backstrom lost his spot on the power play. It was after Monday’s practice when he switched spots with McMichael occupying center that he decided it was time to take a break and heal.

McMichael centers a third line with Anthony Mantha and Matthew Phillips. Phillips and McMichael represent a big part of that Capitals young blood. They’ll be looked on more and relied upon to help carry the veterans.

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As sad as it is to be without Backstrom, the season goes on. Tonight they take the ice with one motto: win for Nicklas Backstrom.