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Nicklas Backstrom the wind beneath Alex Ovechkin’s wings
Alex Ovechkin is scoring goals at record-setting levels and is arguably the NHL’s MVP at the quarter mark of the season with 20 goals in his first 22 games. For those counting, he’s on an incredible 73-goal pace.
But there is someone else at least partially responsible for Ovechkin’s prolific start, the proverbial wind beneath his wings.
His name is Nicklas Backstrom.
You might have heard of the guy, a quiet Swede who on Saturday celebrated his 26th birthday.
In fact, since he entered the NHL, only 12 players have recorded more points than Backstrom’s 439.
“I think he’s getting better every day,” said Marcus Johansson, who also has assisted on 11 of Ovechkin’s goals this season and has 18 points. “I don’t think there is any better player who can slow down the game and find plays. I don’t think there is any better passer in the world right now. It’s unbelievable to watch and even better to play with.”
The two nodded and smiled. Both knew it was the kind of pass Oates made during his Hall of Fame career.
“He is the silent guy, no question, but I’m sure he appreciates the fact that we do appreciate that,” Oates said. “He has to be reminded by myself and the staff every once in a while that that was a special pass. When he came off I gave him the eyeball. Ovi scored, but I saw [the pass.].”
“I’m going to be honest with you, I’m not going to look for attention,” Backstrom said. “That’s not who I am. If you ask me a question I’ll answer any question you want, but I like it back here [in the shadows]. I don’t mind to be in the background. I don’t need [attention]. I’m happy with the way it is. People can write about me, but I’m not going to search for it.”
When Oates was hired by the Capitals he made it very clear he wanted his best players, most of whom are in the prime of their careers, to get better. To that end, he moved Ovechkin to the right side and the 28-year-old Russian has flourished.
By Andrew P. Napolitano
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