Key Stat: Backstrom put up 71 points this season, marking the fifth-straight season - and seventh time overall - in which he scored at least 70 points. Backstrom is one of only seven players (including teammate Alex Ovechkin) to have at least seven 70+ point seasons since his rookie season of 2007-08.
Interesting Stat: Backstrom was on the ice alongside Ovechkin for just over 608 minutes at five on five, marking the least amount of time they’ve spent on the same line in a full 82-game season (with the exception of the 2011-12 campaign, when Backstrom missed 40 games with an injury).
The Good: The 2017-18 season wasn’t one that particularly stood out for Backstrom on the surface; it was another solid year. You know, just another season in which he put up 21 goals (his third-straight 20+ goal season) and averaged close to a point a game, another season in which he put up at least 50 assists (his fifth-straight and eighth time overall, tied with Ryan Getzlaf for the most since 2007-08). Ho hum.
What’s interesting about this being more of the same for #19 is that for the first time in his career, he wasn’t always on a line with his usual running mate in Ovechkin. Instead, he was tasked for roughly half the season (and the entire playoffs) with centering the team’s “second” line alongside T.J. Oshie and a rotation of Andre Burakovsky, Jakub Vrana, and Chandler Stephenson. And he did so without missing a beat, continuing to be one of the team’s top forwards in terms of possession - his CF% rel of 4.4 was his highest since posting 5.7% in his rookie campaign - and leading the team in even-strength HDGF% (% of goals scored off of high-danger scoring chances).
Along the way, Backstrom racked up more milestones and continued to climb up the ranks of the franchise’s all-time greats. In February he scored career goal #200; a month later he appeared in his 800th game, and shortly after that he picked up two assists against the Rangers to move into sole possession of third place on the franchise points list (789). He finished the season just one point shy of 800 for his career.
Once the playoffs rolled around, he - like the majority of his teammates - found another gear. Backstrom’s 13 power-play points led the League and helped fuel the team’s dominant 29.3% rate with the extra man. He also finished the playoff run with the third-highest point total in the League (23) behind Ovechkin and Evgeny Kuznetsov, tied with Winnipeg’s Blake Wheeler for the second-highest assist total (18), an overtime game-winner in a key Game 5 against Columbus in the first round, seven points in the five-game series against Vegas... and oh yeah, a Stanley Cup ring.
The Bad: As weird as it is to say, Backstrom’s 71-point season was a bit of a dropoff for him, a somewhat lackluster follow-up to a stellar 86-point 2016-17 in which he was one of the League’s top scorers. Some of that can be attributed to moving around a bit in the lineup, as linemate production is going to take a hit when your linemate isn’t the great 8. He also had a tendency to take penalties at a high rate during the regular season and finished with the third-highest PIM total among Caps’ forwards.
And while Backstrom’s overall playoff production was unsurprisingly impressive, his goal-scoring was barely a factor, with just five goals - one shy of his career high but in many more games played - during the four-series run. The biggest reason for that, obviously, was the hand injury suffered towards the end of the second round against Pittsburgh, an injury that clearly hampered his ability to shoot the puck on net (if not to dish it out to his teammates).
Backstrom and His Linemates (chart by @muneebalamcu):
Backstrom’s 5v5 Usage (chart by @muneebalamcu):
Backstrom’s Rolling Shot-Attempt (Corsi) -For Percentage (chart by @muneebalamcu):
The Vote: Rate Backstrom below on a scale of 1-10 (10 being the best) based on his performance relative to his potential and your expectations for the season - if he had the best year you could have imagined him having, give him a 10; if he more or less played as you expected he would, give him a 5 or a 6; if he had the worst year you could have imagined him having, give him a 1.
The Discussion: It’s likely that Backstrom will start the 2018-19 campaign on the Caps’ second line alongside T.J. Oshie; who lines up best on the other wing? Backstrom’s next point will be his 800th in the regular season, by far the most in his draft class and 12th or so among legitimately active players; at this point, what does this 30-year-old Stanley Cup champion need to add to his resume to have a good chance at being enshrined in the Hall of Fame when he eventually calls it quits? What would it take for you to give him a “10” next year?
How do you rate Nicklas Backstrom’s 2017-18 season?
This poll is closed