Photo: Amanda Bowen
There are plenty of reasons to be concerned about the direction the Caps are trending as the playoffs approach. From a lackluster power play to inconsistent goaltending, and a number of things in between, the Caps are playing their worst hockey of the season at a time when the games are about to become a lot more meaningful.
One area of concern is the play and production of all-star center Nicklas Backstrom. Qualitatively, to my lying eyes, Backstrom seems weaker on the puck and less confident handling it, two things that are normally strengths in his game that set him apart from many of his peers. Quantitatively, there’s a lot to back up the notion that Backstrom’s play has been well below his standards for an extended period now.
Photo: Sanford Myers
In a month, the Washington Capitals will likely end the season as the NHL’s best team with a home-ice advantage through the Stanley Cup playoffs. One of the team’s biggest contributors is Nicklas Backstrom. Sunday, Expressen’s Magnus Nystrom released a long feature on the aforementioned Backstrom, featuring exclusive interviews with the Caps first-line center and his family.
We learn that while Backstrom is stubborn, he’s also becoming even more comfortable as a leader — even with captain Alex Ovechkin.
“[Ovi’s] the guy I’ve yelled at the most,” Backstrom said to Nystrom, explaining the two teammates hold each other to a high standard. “We’ve played together every year I’ve been here, often on the same line and I’m the guy he’s yelled most at too. We’ve had real arguments on the bench where we have stood and barked at each other.”
Backstrom also shares his thoughts on his nightmare in Sochi, fighting his older brother in games, and his daughter Hayley.
“[She] is the best thing that happened to my life,” Backstrom said.
Magnus Cadelin has your translation.
Coming into tonight’s game, bearded beauty Karl Alzner had scored 15 career goals in eight NHL career seasons. Saturday against the Bruins, Alzner tallied number 16 and his fourth of the season. It was amazing.
Basically, Alzner forgot he was a passive, stay-at-home defenseman and started aggressively forechecking behind the Bruins net. What resulted was a pass and score that more resembled a goal connection between Nicklas Backstrom and Alex Ovechkin.
Alex Ovechkin scored his 41st goal of the season and 516th goal of his career in the first period of Caps-Maple Leafs game. Unlike many of the 515 tallies that preceded this one, Ovi didn’t really have to do anything.
Ovechkin’s Swedish BFF, Nicklas Backstrom, did all the hard work, authoring a brilliant saucer pass — on his backhand — right into Ovi’s wheel house. The Russian Machine then one-timed the puck home past Jonathan Bernier to give the Caps a 2-0 lead.
Team Canada announced the first 16 players on its World Cup of Hockey roster. Among those first 16 was a very handsome, very excellent goaltender you might know. His name is Braden Holtby. Katie Brown touched on this very topic earlier this week.
This is the first World Cup of Hockey in 12 years. The last WCH was in 2004 and was won by Canada. Unlike the IIHF World Championships, the World Cup of Hockey is organized by the NHL, with NHL rules, and is timed to not overlap with the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Photo: Patrick Smith
The Capitals came back to beat the Minnesota Wild 3-2. Though they eventually had dramatic goals from Alex Ovechkin and Dmitry Orlov, they looked listless for more than 40 minutes of play. After the game, Caps head coach Barry Trotz could anticipate what was coming.
“It’s 31 times that we haven’t scored first,” Trotz told a reporter who asked about Washington’s poor play early on. “Not that I count it out.”
The Caps have now have now allowed the game’s first goal seven games in a row and 14 of their last 17 games. Many of these slow starts have been against mediocre teams like the Coyotes and the Wild who both made Washington look pathetic in the first period this week. The Capitals usually come back — barely. Twelve of their last 14 games have been decided by one goal. Eight of those 12 games were victories for Washington.
Photo: Washington Capitals
Kicking off a series of Global Heritage Nights at Verizon Center, Monday night was German Heritage Night, honoring Caps goalie Philipp Grubauer and the country of his birth.
The next Heritage Night will be held on March 28. To prepare for Swedish Heritage Night, on Tuesday Nick Backstrom visited the Swedish Embassy. He drank coffee and got presents and was generally adorable in a totally tre kronor way.
Russian Machine Never Breaks is not associated with the Washington Capitals; Monumental Sports, the NHL, or its properties. Not even a little bit.
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