Can anyone amass 18 points to lead the Capitals more quietly than Nicklas Backstrom? Washington’s No.1 center wanted to get off to a strong start this season after recording career lows in points and assists during the 2010-11 campaign, and with five goals and 13 assists through the first 12 games this year, it sure looks like the dynamic, play-making Backstrom is back.
Health obviously plays a role for Backstrom, who was named the NHL’s third star of the week on Monday. He missed five games last year with a fractured left thumb but was plagued by nagging effects of damage to the ligaments in the digit for the rest of the season and playoffs.
But there seem to be some subtle differences in Backstrom’s offensive game. Granted, Backstrom is relied on to do much more than simply produce points, but his re-emergence offensively has him tied, with Henrik and Daniel Sedin, for third in the league in points, and it may be because he’s looking to shoot a little more often.
“Obviously even if I like to pass — and I like to pass — I’ve got to try to shoot it more too,” Backstrom said. “That’s what I’m trying to do this year.”
Through 12 games, Backstrom has taken 34 shots on goal (with a 14.7 shooting percentage) which averages out to 2.83 shots per game. While that may not seem like much, it’s a pace he hasn’t ever hit in his career.
During the 2009-10 campaign, Backstrom recorded 101 points and averaged 2.70 shots on goal over the course of the 82-game regular season.
“You do tell guys a lot to shoot more but it’s engrained in their DNA — some guys are just great passers,” Coach Bruce Boudreau said. “They see the ice so well and they’re so unselfish with the puck that they probably have to tell themselves ‘Shoot more, shoot more,’ because it’s not a natural thing. I don’t know if that’s the case with Nick, I just know that’s the case with a lot of tremendous passers.
“Sometimes you pass up good shots; there’s been many players in this league or any league that you wish they would shoot more,” Boudreau continued. “We remind him to shoot, but for the most part he makes the right play all the time.”
Here’s a look at Backstrom’s shooting over the course of his career:
|Season||Games played||Shots||Shots per game||Shooting percentage|
|2011-12||12||34||2.83 per game||14.7 percent|
|2010-11||77||202||2.62 per game||8.9 percent|
|2009-10||82||222||2.70 per game||14.9 percent|
|2008-09||82||174||2.12 per game||12.6 percent|
|2007-08||82||153||1.86 per game||9.2 percent|