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Capitals 2021-22 Player Report Cards: Nicklas Backstrom



Capitals center Nicklas Backstrom

The Washington Capitals are gearing up for a busy summer ahead, and with the 2021-22 campaign starting to wind down and the offseason looming, it’s time to take a look back.

For the first time, WHN is delivering on some season report cards for this season. First up is center Nicklas Backstrom.


Looking at No. 19 and his season, it can be hard to capture the full essence of his season and performance. He spent the first half of the season going through a grueling rehabilitation process for a lingering left hip injury linked back to 2015. Backstrom started work off-ice before skating on his own, getting back in full gear and ultimately returning to full-contact practice and game action in December.

Through 47 regular-season games, Backstrom managed to dish six goals and 25 assists for 31 points in 47 games while averaging 17:29 minutes a night. He also won 46.4 percent of his draws and was a minus-1. That would have put him on pace for 54 points in a full campaign, which would have marked his ninth straight 50-point season. Despite not being at 100 percent, he still managed to sustain that production and consistency and strived to be a catalyst on special teams and at even strength.

Not only that, but the 34-year-old also hit the 1,000-point milestone and skated in his 1,000th game alongside Alex Ovechkin. He also invented the “apple trick,” one of the most epic arena celebrations of all time as rubber apples rained down at Capital One Arena as he put on a show on the same night he was honored for hitting the millennium mark with Washington.

In the playoffs, he still strung together a solid series offensively, picking up six points (two goals, four assists) in six games against Florida. However, he appeared to be hurting and struggling a bit at times.


At the other end of the ice, Backstrom did a decent job for the most part. He had 16 hits and 16 blocks, engaged in battles and had 25 takeaways, along with just 13 giveaways. Backy engaged in battles and also took good care of the puck, finishing with a Corsi-for percentage of 57.3 and a relative Corsi of 9.6 at all strengths.

He was on the ice, though, for 31 total goals against at 5-on-5 and ranked first in scoring chances-against percentage among skaters with at least 30 GP (54.3 percent). He was also on the ice for 25 high-danger goals against at even strength.

With regard to how he looked on the ice, Backstrom did appear to get outskated at times and wasn’t as fast as he had been in the past. However, that was of course linked to his lingering hip issues.


Despite having the odds against him, Backstrom maintained a positive work ethic and strived to give his all on the ice and help the team in any way possible. He still produced at a high level and provided a lot on offense while continuing to lead the top-6 and run things on the power play. And ultimately, his return did provide a bit of a spark on the struggling power play.

Not only that but off the ice, he continued to provide leadership for Washington.

“His presence huge, right?” Evgeny Kuznetsov said of his Capitals teammate. “In locker room, everywhere… As soon as you see him before the game in the locker room, it’s mental thing a little bit. Backy’s back.”

At the end of the season, Backstrom revealed that his hip continued to bother him and that he will consider all options over the summer, including more rehabilitation and surgery. There has also been speculation that the Swede could consider hanging up the skates, though he wouldn’t confirm anything himself. When asked about Backstrom considering retirement, general manager Brian MacLellan wouldn’t speculate, either.

Overall, Backstrom continued to bring a lot to the table for Washington. It remains to be seen whether or not he will return for the Capitals next season, but his impact will certainly last.