Superman and Batman. Butch Cassidy and Mozart. Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom. These duos stand the test of time for greatness.
In 390 games played, Backstrom has 284 assists. More than a third of those have been registered on goals by Ovechkin (60 primary and 37 secondary). This year, the Swede has been credited with just three secondary assists for the Great 8 — all on the power play.
Some of that is because of Ovechkin’s goal drought during five-on-five play (just three even-strength goals on 61 shots in 25 games this season). But there could be an easy fix for that: reunite the dynamic duo — for good — down the stretch.
Coach Adam Oates talks a lot about “playing the right way.” While we don’t know for sure what that means, I hazard a guess it includes possessing the puck. And if that is indeed the end game, then there is no one on the roster who helps Ovechkin “play the right way” more than Backstrom.
Consider Ovechkin’s puck possession numbers (as measured by Corsi percentage, which is simply the even-strength shots attempted for Washington as a percentage of all shots taken) with the pivots, since 2007:
There are pitfalls, of course, having a top line with your two best players, but Washington is currently 14th in the Eastern Conference and close to having its playoff hopes all but squashed over the next few games. What’s the worst that could happen?
Neil Greenberg, when he isn’t watching the games, analyzes advanced statistics in the NHL and prefers to be called a geek rather than a nerd. Follow him on Twitter: @ngreenberg.