Two weeks ago, the Washington Capitals announced that first line center Nicklas Backstrom went under the knife to have an arthroscopic procedure done on his hip. The club added in a statement that they were “confident” he will be “completely healthy” before the start of the 2015-16 regular season.
Friday in Culpeper, Virginia, a few hundred Eastern View High seniors gathered at Cyclone Stadium, the school’s football field, for graduation. Like the thousands of other students across the area, graduation is a huge celebration– the culmination of many, many years of hard work (or just enough expert coasting to get by).
But there was one Eastern View senior who was walking with a heavy heart: 18-year-old Paige Hockman, who was graduating with honors. As she walked on stage and accepted her diploma, she blew a kiss into the sky. Most in the audience understood exactly what the gesture meant.
The top of her powder blue graduation cap had a message written in glitter glue: “Guys, I did it!!!” The names Reagan, mom, and dad accompanied the note with blue hearts. Blue was her father’s favorite color.
Nicklas Backstrom can be bland. He’s one of the best players in the league and one of the Capitals’ alternative captains, but sometimes you forget he’s there. On the ice and off it, he draws almost no attention to himself.
Two days after the Capitals were eliminated by the New York Rangers in game seven of the Eastern Conference Semifinal, the team gathered at Kettler Capitals Iceplex to pack up their equipment and speak to reporters for the final time this season. In past years, we’ve seen weird fashion choices and forceful quotes, but Backstrom normally sits in the shadows. Friday, however, was Nick’s time to shine: he wore a shirt that read “Free Hugs” and said some vaguely interesting things.
“Just the big guy on campus, you know?” Ward explained. “The Big Cheese, it’s like the king on the throne. I mean, the Cheese kind of holds everything together in here, you know?”
On Thursday night, Ward, playing on the first line again with Nicklas Backstrom and Alex Ovechkin, showed why he’s such a big deal. The winger scored with 1.3 seconds remaining in the third period after being marvelously set up by Alex Ovechkin. Ward also scored in game seven on Monday. He famously netted the series-ending goal in deciding game against the Boston Bruins two years ago.
How do you beat Jaroslav Halak? The answer is almost always traffic up front. That’s how Alex Ovechkingot the Caps their first goal, a deflection in the first period. And that’s how, almost 60 minutes of play later, Nicklas Backstrom ended the game– as Joel Ward impersonated a wall in the slot.
Talking about this goal would be vulgar. Just know this: Nick Backstrom has tied the game at three with a power-play goal that will make you cry or high five or cry five, which is what you call it when you cry and high five at the same time.