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Inside Look At Capitals’ ‘BMW’ Line As Wilson, Milano & Backstrom Thrive Together

The Washington Capitals have seen their Milano-Backstrom-Wilson line start to thrive and become one of the best combos at 5-on-5. What goes into that success?



When Nicklas Backstrom and Tom Wilson drew back into the mix, it took a few games for them to not only get back up to speed, but for head coach Peter Laviolette to see where they fit best. And after some mixing and matching, Laviolette found the answer in Sonny Milano.

Back at a Jan. 13 practice, Laviolette put Backstrom, Milano and Wilson together. Since then, the trio has taken off, and four games into their time together, the "BMW" line is making strides and proving to be one of the team's top combinations at 5-on-5.

"It's been great," Milano said of playing with Backstrom and Wilson. "Obviously two experienced players. I try to just follow their lead and create a lot of space. So it's definitely nice playing with them."

With the exception of a few minutes during the Minnesota game, the combo has been thriving together and bouncing off of each other, while improving with each game that goes by. At even strength, the trio has combined for an overwhelming 70.17 expected goals-for percentage. Without the trio on the ice, that xGF% drops to 52.40 at even strength.

Backstrom, Wilson and Milano have played 40:19 minutes on the ice together at 5-on-5 and have bounced off each other, as each member of the trio brings something different to the table. Backstrom is obviously the playmaker and catalyst who drives the play up ice and can make the right passes with ease. Wilson brings the "boom" and physicality, and he gets to those high-danger areas and also reads the ice well while utilizing his size and heavy shot.

When it comes to what's working, Wilson said that he and Backstrom feel themselves getting more comfortable as time goes by and as they continue to get back into the swing following nearly eight months away due to major offseason surgeries. However, he said No. 19's skill has a lot to do with making him better.

"Nicky’s such a great player, such a smart player. When he has the puck, I just try to stay put and get open and try and finish it," Wilson said, adding, "Anytime i’m playing with Nicky, it’s a privilege. He’s one of the smartest to ever play."

Then there's Milano, who has great speed and can create time and space for Backstrom and Wilson, and he also has a wicked shot, good playmaking ability and a knack to be in the right place at the right time. Laviolette has also praised Milano for being one of the team's top contributors at 5-on-5.

[I'm] just working hard, and the skill set comes after that, I think.. I'm having fun in the games," Milano said of what he brings to the table.

Wilson has two goals and an assist in his last three games, and Backstrom has three helpers — including the 750th of his storied career — in six games since returning from hip resurfacing surgery. Milano has points in two of his last three games and is on pace for a career-high 42 points in 69 games, which would translate to nearly a 50-point season had he played in all 82 games.

At the end of the day, Milano said the combo's time together on the ice will allow them to continue to feel each other out and get stronger. But right now, things are definitely coming together.

"We're starting to click a little bit and understand that we're gonna be on the ice [together], so definitely coming along," Milano said.

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