Statistical analysis: Will Nicklas Backstrom have a bounce-back season?


Capitals center Nicklas Backstrom started last season strong, storming out of the gate with 30 points in Washington's first 26 games, a 94-point, 82-game pace.

Then things went south.

The Super Swede had a 21-game stretch without a goal and didn't score a power-play goal in his last 66 games, including the playoffs. He finished with just two assists in nine postseason games and went over 106 minutes in which he didn’t register a single shot on goal.


Some will point to the broken left thumb Backstrom suffered in late February, which kept him out of games for the first time in his career, but General Manager George McPhee rejected the idea that an injury was to blame.


How much better can we reasonably expect Backstrom to be next season?

When Backstrom is on the ice, he is a big part of the offense. Whether it is five-aside or with the man advantage, he typically registers points on two-thirds of the goals scored and scores almost a fifth of those goals himself.

Examining how the team will do going forward can give us some insight into what his boxcar stats will be at the end of the 2011-12 season.


As a result, Backstrom should be on the ice for eight shots on goal during even strength and another three when the Capitals have the man advantage. The team's shooting percentage, especially on the power play, will likely improve to a rate more in agreement with the skill level of his linemates. My estimates are 10 percent during five-on-five and 17 percent when Washington has the man advantage.

Converting those back to boxcar stats over a full season indicates Backstrom will score 11 even-strength goals along with seven more on the power play next year. He will also tally 52 assists in 2011-12.

That gives us a reasonable expectation of 18 goals plus 52 assists for 70 points in 81 games for the Capitals' top pivot, not much improvement over last year.

Neil Greenberg also writes for Russian Machine Never Breaks. Follow him on Twitter: @ngreenberg.

Neil Greenberg analyzes advanced sports statistics for the Fancy Stats blog and prefers to be called a geek rather than a nerd.

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