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For a Moment, Backstrom’s Back

Sometimes a goal is more than just a goal

Washington Capitals v Toronto Maple Leafs Photo by Kevin Sousa/NHLI via Getty Images

The Caps got spanked in Toronto on Sunday night, posting the kind of performance that has been far too common during a 6-7-2 stretch that dates back to December and makes up a large enough chunk of the season to have legitimate if not significant concerns about the team’s likelihood to qualify for the postseason.

But buried beneath the rubble of another demolition was a moment of beauty, almost detached from the game itself:

That slick wrister - Nicklas Backstrom’s first goal of the season - gave the Caps a short-lived lead. But it no doubt gave Backstrom something that will last a lot longer. Because Backstrom’s “first goal of the season” was also Backstrom’s “first goal post-hip resurfacing,” a surgery that NHL players simply don’t come back from.

Except Nicklas Backstrom has.

Backstrom didn’t need to put in all the work it took to make it back, either. He had his 1,000 points, his Stanley Cup, his franchise marks and likely Hall of Fame career (yeah, we’re putting him in). And he had his health, or what remains of it.

But Backstrom did put in the work. And he did make it back.

Nicklas Backstrom in 2023 isn’t what Nicklas Backstrom was in 2010 or even 2021. And reasonable minds can differ as to whether he is or can still be some suitable facsimile of “Nicklas Backstrom.” But seeing a Backstrom goal this season (or ever again) was far from a given. And it was a heartening bigger-than-hockey moment in a game that was anything but.