The puck bounced into the offensive zone and Ovechkin got it on his stick. Seconds later it was in the net, and the Washington Capitals star jumped into the glass at Verizon Center. Just another goal by No. 8, Alex Ovechkin, assisted by No. 19, Nicklas Backstrom.
“They see each other on the ice all the time,” right wing Troy Brouwer said. “Nicky’s got great vision out there. He knows where Ovi’s going to be. He knows his tendencies over the last six or seven years they’ve played together.”
While Ovechkin has gotten most of the credit for the Caps’ recent run of success, Backstrom deserves much more than he’s receiving. Of the captain’s 18 goals in the past 17 games, Backstrom assisted 13 of them.
“I think Ovi’s been unreal, but that comes with Nicky. He’s been unreal as well,” center Mathieu Perreault said. “They work really good together, and when both guys are going, this is when we’re good.”
When Ovechkin and Backstrom are producing like this, the Caps are almost unstoppable. Backstrom has 13 assists during the Caps’ seven-game winning streak and at least one in each game heading into Tuesday’s contest against the Toronto Maple Leafs.
“He’s feeling the flow right now,” Brouwer said. “He’s smooth out there, he’s got confidence oozing out of him right now. He knows where guys are on the ice. You’re seeing the vintage Nick Backstrom from a couple years ago when he was playing so well and the guy that I love to watch on the highlights.”
Backstrom didn’t have many highlights early in the season. The 25-year-old Swede had no points in four of his first five games, yet coach Adam Oates didn’t express any concern.
He knew Backstrom would get it together, and this recent stretch is evidence.
“Obviously it’s better than in the beginning,” Backstrom said of his game. “With us winning, I think everybody gets confidence from that, and our line has been playing pretty good lately and hopefully we can keep this rolling.”
The Caps are rolling because that top line of Marcus Johansson, Backstrom and Ovechkin has carried them. Ovechkin and Backstrom have led the charge, but Oates has been insistent on crediting Johansson, who has three goals and 12 assists in 15 games since joining that line.
“It’s really hard to be a two-man team in this league nowadays the way teams track and play D-zone coverage,” Oates said. “You need all three guys, and Marcus coming back from his injury has really helped.”
Recalibrating the chemistry between Ovechkin and Backstrom helped, too. Many of Washington’s wins over the past several years were built on Backstrom and Ovechkin. Sometimes it’s hard to figure why players have an inherent connection, but the Caps’ franchise cornerstones have had it for a long time.