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Nicklas Backstrom scored a huge game-tying goal against the Calgary Flames in the Caps home opener.
Nicklas Backstrom has already demonstrated a flair for the dramatic this season. It was Backstrom who scored the game-tying goal in the Caps' great comeback win over the Calgary Flames in the home opener.
Like much of what this very underrated center does, though, his heroics went largely unnoticed by most except dedicated Caps fans. Such is the life of the man who has lived in the shadow of Alex Ovechkin for much of his career.
Last season, Backstrom became one of the best setup men in the NHL. His 40 assists led the Caps, and he ended up finishing third in the entire NHL in that category. He would have been on pace for 68 assists, which would have tied him for his career high, set in the 2009-10 season.
So far this season, Backstrom looks to be as dangerous as ever, especially on the power play. His overall game looks as solid. He currently has a goal and three assists. The three assists has him ranked second on the team, but I seriously doubt Marcus Johansson will remain the Caps assist leader all season.
But Backstrom's true value is how he enhances the gameplay of Ovechkin. Ovi would not likely be half the player he is without Backstrom by his side, and Backstrom's play is a big reason why Ovechkin is off to such a hot start.
Backstrom is just one of those players who does what he does and he does it well. This becomes evident when the Caps are on the power play.
With the man advantage, Backstrom's vision, passing ability and playmaking are exceptional. Against the Chicago Blackhawks on opening night, Backstrom clearly made the Hawks nervous. The 'Hawks were third in the NHL last season in penalty-kill efficiency, yet they played somewhat tentatively against the Caps power play.
It did not work out so well. Three of the Caps' four goals were of the power-play variety. Backstrom had assists on two of them. This is part of what makes Backstrom so dangerous: Even when a team is actively trying to stop him, he can still make them pay.
One stat that concerns me so far is Backstrom's low faceoff win percentage. Backstrom is only winning 45.4 percent of his draws so far this season. Last season, he won 51.4 percent. Obviously, if the Caps top line is going to produce more, then Backstrom must win more faceoffs.
But otherwise, Backstrom is going to have a very good season. It likely will not be enough for him to be considered the Caps' MVP, but Caps fans should get a very solid outing from Backstrom in 2013-14.