After picking up a goal and an assist during the Washington Capitals‘ 3-2 victory over the New York Rangers on Friday night it would seem that Nicklas Backstrom should be the talk of the NHL. This is not only for his feats during the win, but because the Swede is on a scoring tear of epic proportions.
During the last eight games Backstrom has totaled 17 points, or a 2.125 points per game average, and now has 44 points in 38 games for the 2013-14 season. While these may seem to be unimportant numbers to some people, the facts are that this recent run has placed the center firmly in the race for the Art Ross Trophy, which is given annually to the person with the most points in the NHL.
Currently 44 points puts Backstrom tied for third in the NHL points alongside Ryan Getzlaf and trailing Patrick Kane by six and Sidney Crosby by eleven. And while these two deficits may seem insurmountable, they seem a bit more mortal considering they represent the Chicago Blackhawks and Pittsburgh Penguins who have both played two more games than the Capitals.
But a simple deficit in games is not all that makes Backstrom a reasonable candidate to lead the NHL in scoring during the 2013-14 season. In fact there are a few more.
One reason that can easily be identified for Backstrom continuing to keep up his current pace and gain steam on the leaders is that he plays alongside Alexander Ovechkin. While some people will discredit him for this, the facts are that Ovechkin currently leads the NHL in goals scored at 30, and Backstrom plays massive minutes alongside him on both the team’s first line and their power play unit. During the last eight games the Swede has contributed six of his 13 assists to goals the Russian has scored, and it can only be expected that a level similar to this will be maintained throughout the season. This practically ensures a respectable level of points being secured consistently and makes climbing the charts all the more attainable.
In addition to gaining points via goals that Ovechkin scores, Backstrom will continue to rack up points on the Capitals power play. The team’s unit with an extra man is currently unstoppable, ranking first in the NHL with a 25.9 percent score rate which is in large part due to the Swede’s contributions. Over the last eight games he has added nine points with the extra man and ranks first in the NHL on the season with 24 points. After watching Mike Green find good form in recent games it can be expected this production to possibly see an uptick as Washington continues to add scoring threats that make both assists and goals easier to pick up.
Possibly the most important reason that Backstrom will stay in the race for the NHL’s scoring title to the end is that he is an almost guaranteed to stay on the ice. The center has not missed a game since the 2011-12 season and over a seven-year career has missed only 45 games in total. When one considers 40 of those games occurred during the 2011-2012 season and that he tends to avoid bone crushing collisions, it is safe to say his 6-foot-1 213-pound frame will withstand all 82 games.
In the end, there is no doubting that overcoming an eleven point deficit to win the Art Ross Trophy will not be easy, but it is certainly not impossible for Backstrom. Given the players he continuously plays alongside and the fact he is a near lock to stay healthy, the points will continue to rack up and a slight slip by either Kane or Crosby will vault the Swede into the top spot.