Tag: Nicklas Backstrom


In case you haven’t noticed, the NHL is a young man’s game


Just for the sake of the discussion — and since everyone’s talking about Tyler Johnson today — here are all the players who have scored at least five goals in these playoffs:

Johnson (11), Corey Perry (7), Patrick Kane (7), Nikita Kucherov (6), Chris Kreider (6), Vladimir Tarasenko (6), Alex Killorn (6), Derek Stepan (5), Alex Ovechkin (5), Derick Brassard (5), Evgeny Kuznetsov (5), Max Pacioretty (5), Matt Beleskey (5), and Colin Wilson (5).

That’s 14 players. Can you pick out the oldest?

The answer is Anaheim’s Perry, who turned 30 on Saturday. Only slightly younger than Perry, Ovechkin will turn 30 in September.

Otherwise, it’s all players who are comfortably in their 20s, their legs still full of burst, their bodies not yet worn down by the grind of taking hundreds of pucks hard to the net, and all the punishment that goes with scoring goals in today’s NHL.

This isn’t to say that once a goal-scorer turns 30 he should be put out to pasture, like the theory about running backs in the NFL. Marian Gaborik, Justin Williams, and Martin St. Louis all had productive postseasons last year. This year is perhaps an extreme case.

But it does show the importance of youth, and how quickly a player — especially a forward — can go from getting drafted to making a significant impact.

True, patience is required when developing prospects. You don’t want to rush them. There’s nothing wrong with learning the game in the AHL. But at the same time, there has to be a sense of urgency in getting prospects ready for the NHL so they can enjoy as many productive seasons as possible, before their peak years (at a relatively low cap hit) are over.

Hence, all the talk surrounding 20-year-old Jonathan Drouin. While it’s not like the Lightning should be hitting the panic button that he hasn’t yet gained the trust of his coach, it’s not unfair to wonder if he’s fallen a bit behind in his development.

In a related story, Capitals GM Brian MacLellan knows “the next three or four years is the window” in Washington. Because, where will Ovechkin’s game be after that? Where will Nicklas Backstrom’s? The Caps have an opportunity over the next few years to get production from both their veterans and their youth. That’s the sweet spot every GM aims for. And those sweet spots don’t last long.

Caps GM shares position that tops his UFA shopping list

Nicklas Backstrom, Alex Ovechkin

Washington Capitals general manager Brian MacLellan already made some interesting comments about free agents who might leave town, but what about players who might join the fold?

The still-fairly-new-GM shared some interesting thoughts on the development of forwards such as Tom Wilson (he’s hoping to see the brutish winger become a top-six guy some day) and Andre Burakovsky, yet the position that tops his free-agent shopping list is awfully interesting. As he told the Washington Post’s Alex Prewitt, the Capitals are hoping to sign a first-line right wing.

Capitals fans are all-too-familiar with a revolving cast of linemates for the dynamic duo of Nicklas Backstrom and Alex Ovechkin. It’s actually been a theme even before the Capitals changed their management combo.

Sometimes, the Capitals have rolled with a power forward-type such as Joel Ward or Wilson. Other times, a “finesse” player would compliment them, such as Burakovsky or Marcus Johansson. (These “With or Without You” stats show how erratic things got for Ovechkin + Backstrom.)

Naturally, there are plenty of questions that arise, including “are you sure there’s even a suitable right win out there?” As you can see from this list, the choices fall off fast after Justin Williams and Martin St. Louis, two players who could conceivably stick with their current teams.

Still, plenty of things can change, and you can’t blame MacLellan for pointing out an obvious hope.

Speaking of hoping, Japers’ Rink did an amusing job of cobbling together Prewitt’s findings into what would seem to be MacLellan’s ideal top-six scenario:

Oh man, Dude Not On Roster can play.

What’s next for Ovechkin?


It happened again; the Washington Capitals fostered high hopes, but Alex Ovechkin & Co. fell short of the conference finals.

That doesn’t mean he’s getting the same heat he once did for a playoff exit, however. Mike Milbury and Keith Jones believe that he didn’t have the same burst in Game 7, yet they acknowledged his hard work, as many others have:

(Meanwhile, Capitals head coach Barry Trotz was downright effusive about his high opinion of the work from Ovechkin and Washington’s other top players.)

Perhaps deep down it’s all about the humanizing affect of some gray hairs?

Will the returns diminish?

Of course, that graying hair brings up a troubling question: what if Ovechkin’s best days are behind him?

He’ll turn 30 during the offseason, and as blogger-turned-front-office-employee Eric Tulsky once pointed out, things tend to really slide when you pass the big three-oh:

In addition, we now have an estimate of how even strength scoring ability changes through a player’s 30’s. On average, players retain about 90% of their scoring through age 29, but the drop from there is pretty sharp — they hit 80% at age 31, 70% at age 32-33, and 60% at age 35.

The easy counter is that Ovechkin isn’t like other snipers.

He’s a special player who could very well live off of his ridiculous power-play shooting. Then again, there’s also the wear-and-tear of being one of the most physical star forwards of his generation. It’s estimated that Ovechkin has thrown 1,224 hits since 2009-10; that’s a ton of extra collisions, even if his opponent received the brunt of the impact in every instance. His reckless style might lose some of its appeal as he goes grayer.

What we know happens next and what we don’t

For one thing, it’s clear there will be no rest for the weary:

That might be a bit challenging for a guy who seemed spent after Game 7:

Anyway, the biggest question marks revolve around the makeup of a Capitals team that may look very different in 2015-16. The impression is that one or more of key free agents such as Joel Ward and Mike Green may not return. It’s also clear that RFA Braden Holtby’s impending raise could make Washington’s estimated $21 million in cap space look like an illusion.

As much as Barry Trotz may request even more defensive prowess, Washington would be wise to focus on giving Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom a little more support. Just look at the drop-off in production after those two:


Ovechkin – 79 points
Backstrom – 79 points
Joel Ward – 49 points
Marcus Johansson – 44 points
Troy Brouwer – 43 points


Ovechkin – 81 points
Backstrom – 78 points
John Carlson – 55 points
Johansson – 47 points
Mike Green – 45 points

It’s plausible that Andre Burakovsky and Evgeny Kuznetsov might make big strides next season, but one could argue that the Caps should still shop for more offensive help.


Long story short, Ovechkin is likely to remain a star for some time, yet Washington has to hope that he defies broader stats about snipers falling sharply after they turn 30. It should be fascinating to see if all the talk about growth ends up being justified, especially for “The Great Eight.”

Video: Brooks Orpik levels Dan Boyle


Washington Capitals defenseman Brooks Orpik has a reputation for landing bone-rattling hits. He did so against New York Rangers blueliner Dan Boyle during the third period of Game 7.

More than a few people believe Orpik should have received an elbowing or roughing penalty for the huge check, but there was no whistle:

Here’s the hit in GIF form:

It’s been a tough series for Boyle, who was shaken up by a Nicklas Backstrom hit just moments before the Capitals beat the buzzer to win Game 1:

Apparently Rick Nash isn’t happy about that hit:

Fehr replaces Glencross in Caps’ Game 7 lineup

Washington Capitals v Minnesota Wild

With their season on the line, the Washington Capitals are favoring a familiar face over a trade deadline find. Eric Fehr steps back in the Caps’ lineup in place of Curtis Glencross against the New York Rangers in Game 7.

Fehr, 29, has missed the past 10 games. He hasn’t scored in the three playoff contests he appeared in, but he showed decent scoring punch during the regular season, with 19 goals (including four game-winners) in 75 games.

Fehr also had 14 assists for a total of 33 points.

He’s a big body who’s currently slotted in a lower line combination, yet he’s shown a decent amount of aptitude skating with Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom when given the opportunity.

Glencross, 32, has been quiet during the playoffs, managing a single goal in 10 games. He hasn’t really produced many chances, either, with just 14 shots on goal.

On paper, this is a minor swap, but you never know when a bit player might steal the spotlight.