Nicklas Bäckström: "I’m still incredibly disappointed"


 
Nicklas Bäckström recently gave an interview to Swedish TV.

How has the summer been?

"It's been good but a little different from previous summers. I made some changes in my training and it feels pretty good actually."

What kind of changes?

"I changed trainers. Now I work with a guy named Sebastian Falk. He is an old [speed] skater and I think that he can help me become a better player, so far it has worked out well.  I'm basically working on my skating. I want to be faster on my skates. Right now that is what I'm trying to improve. It feels good and we are working hard down in Gävle."

It sounds kind of silly that a professional hockey player that has skated all his life is suppose to learn how to skate again. What are you doing exactly?   

"It's not about me learning to skate again. It's more about changing minute little details that can make me a better player. It's not like I'm the fastest hockey player out there, but yeah, I want to be faster on my skates I think that will help my hockey career."

It's been a few months since the season ended, have you been able to look back and reflect on what happened?

"I have to say that I'm still incredibly disappointed. It felt good after the first playoff round and then we lost in four straight games to Tampa. It came as a shock and I felt totally empty inside after that. But at the same time, if we don't play better than that, and I have to say that Tampa played really well; they played smart against us and had a good goalie, they definitely deserved the win but I don't know, we should have been better, and if I'm talking about me personally  I underachieved in the playoffs and I just can't do that in that situation."

Can you elaborate some on that, how did you underachieve?

"I don't know. I guess I'm the type of player that is expected to score goals and rack up points. But things didn't work at all for me and when that happens you have to do a lot of soul searching and that's what I've been doing."

So after all that soul searching what did you come up with?

"That I underachieved."

Could you have done anything different?

"I have played in the NHL playoffs four times now and you just can't compare it to the regular season. Everything is so much tougher. In the playoffs you have to play at the top of your game every second of every game otherwise you won't move on to the next round. At the same time everything has to click for the team; your goalie has to be good and we had some bad luck with injuries. But at the same time this year I think it looks much better than it has in a long time. I hope we can learn from our mistakes and simply just play better in the playoffs both as team and as individuals."

How much can you influence on the way you play in Washington?

"I don't really have much of a say in that. That is up to the coaches and the organization to decide about. But at the same time that is something you have to talk about as a leader and as a player, and I feel that we have done that now and hopefully that can lead to bigger and better things in the future."

Do you think that you should change the way you play? Last season you changed to a more defensive scheme.

"Yeah, that's correct. We tried something completely different because  in the previous year our defense wasn't that good. But it's hard to know really, we've never been there, we've never been one of the top teams at the end of the playoffs. We will see when we get over there again, I think we will work on a new system. But exactly what that new system is I'm not at liberty to say."

It feels like you have been one of the favorites to win for the last couple of years. What do you have to do to finally take that last step?

"We have to work together as a team - all the time. That is what we have been working towards but so far we haven't been able to make it work the way we want it to work. When you don't work well together as a team you won't win in the playoffs, it's that simple. You just have to look at teams like Boston and Vancouver last year, and Detroit is really good too."

Do you think you will spend your whole career in Washington?

"Well, I will be there for the next nine years at least. I really like it there so of course I hope that it will last longer than that, but I'm not a soothsayer so I can't see that far into the future."

It feels like it's you, Alex Ovechkin and Alexander Semin are the ones that have to step up and perform.  Do you yourself feel that pressure?

"Yes." (laughs)

How does it feel to have that kind of pressure on you all the time?

"That's just the way it is. Over there all salaries are public. You just have to look at those numbers to see that we are the ones that are supposed to produce the points. There's nothing weird about that, it's the way it should be.  For me personally - I like the pressure. I mean it's an extra challenge for us players; we are supposed to have fun out there on the ice, and we do have fun."

Is it always just an motivator that spurs you on? Or can there be too much pressure at times?   

"Of course it can feel a bit weird at times when things aren't working, when the puck isn't bouncing its own way I get a bit frustrated. But when the puck isn't going right for me I don't think about the pressure, I just get annoyed and frustrated with myself. There's nothing strange with that, I think all athletes feel the same way."


Next season will be your fifth in the league, do you feel like you get more respect from the rest of the league now.

"That's not something I can answer myself."


But they know what you are made of now, does that make it easier or harder for you to produce?

"Of course it gets a little bit harder when the opposing team plays you a bit harder and tighter and don't give you room to work, but I can't say I noticed it that much. I play most of my shifts with one of the world's best hockey players, so maybe they have two guys on him and then it becomes an advantage for me instead. That is how I look at it at least."

So is Ovechkin as crazy as he seems to be?

"Yeah, I think you can say that. I haven't seen him during the summer though, but he is crazy and he loves the limelight. Which suits me very well."

How do you feel about next season?  

"It's going to be real interesting. We have added some very good, experienced, players. I mean there is only one way left for us now, and that is to go all the way. But at the same time you put a lot of pressure on yourself, and the  organization puts a lot of pressure on itself too - we want to win. All teams that make the playoffs can win it all, the eighth seed can win over the first seed. Just look at how we lost to Montreal two years ago. What I'm trying to say is that your position after the regular season really doesn't matter. It's a long road to get to the finals, just ask the Sedins."

It feels like your conference has gotten a lot stronger over the summer?

"Yeah, that might be true. I think it's just good for us though that we will have to play a lot of tough games. I think it will be an advantage for us in the end."

You played injured, with a broken thumb in the playoffs. How's the body?

"It feels pretty good."

Rock-solid?

"I don't know about that. Well, maybe a little." 

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