The perfect complement

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“I felt like things were so fast, it would be better for me to stay home one more year and get some experience,” Backstrom says. “I had heard and seen guys come over too early, go to camp and then get sent down. I didn't want to do that. I wanted to prove that I could play in the NHL right away. I got lucky to come to this team. They gave me so many opportunities.”

Backstrom arrived in the District as a 20-year old to practice with other prospects and conduct his first media interviews. Although he took English classes in school, the scene was still intimidating.

“My English was so bad… terrible,” he says. “I knew what I wanted to say, and I understood what people were saying to me, but it was hard to find the words.”

The on-ice transition was more seamless, save for accidently putting the puck in the Caps' goal to lose a game against Pittsburgh. He played in every game as a rookie and saw his ice time spike when Boudreau replaced Glen Hanlon.

“Bruce was like, 'Play much; you're good,' ” he says. ” 'We have a good system, and if you play the system, you'll get a lot of ice time.' ”

Says McPhee: “I thought [Backstrom would adjust quickly] because he's about as smart as players come. His hockey sense is exceptional. He has a great picture of what goes on when he's on the ice and great anticipation and tremendous poise. He's strong enough that, when he gets the puck, he can hold people off until something opens up for him.”

'I trust my brain'

Tracking Backstrom's movements during a Caps power play is a task. In the home finale against Atlanta last week, he was on the ice with Ovechkin, Viktor Kozlov, Brooks Laich and Mike Green.

Backstrom wins the faceoff and is on the move.

Right half wall.

Left point.

Top of the crease.

Right corner.

Right point.

“He's busy all the time,” Caps center Sergei Fedorov says. “He communicates with everybody well and skates all over the place.”

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