The Washington Capitals take on the Calgary Flames tonight for Game 58 of the Capitals’ season. The team has been playing much better as of late, beating the Carolina Hurricanes (the best team in the Eastern Conference) 4-0, as well as the Seattle Kraken 5-2. Although the points up for grabs in tonight’s contest mean something, there is something much more meaningful that this game tonight will represent. Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom are set to become the 9th duo in NHL history to play 1,000 games together.
Alexander Ovechkin entered the league in a big way during the 2005-06 NHL season, putting up 52 goals and 54 assists for 106 points and a Calder Trophy as the Rookie of the Year for his efforts.
However, the Washington Capitals had struggled despite acquiring the new face of the franchise. After finishing 29-41-12, the Caps were awarded the 4th-overall selection in the 2006 NHL Entry Draft. With their pick locked in, Washington and their management group took to the stage in Vancouver, alongside their new stud, Alex Ovechkin, to announce who they had selected. It was there that Ovi himself would announce that the Washington Capitals had selected who would become Ovi’s career-long running mate, Nicklas Backstrom. I’ve always loved how fitting it is that Ovechkin selected Backstrom. How else could it have gone?
Two seasons later, Backstrom made his debut and contributed with 14 goals, 55 assists and 69 points in 82 games to go along with Ovechkin’s 65 goals, 47 assists and 112 points in 82 games.
From that point on, the two became inseparable both on and off the ice. Ovechkin was the extroverted wrecking-ball of a player who scores 50 goals per season, while Backstrom was the introverted cerebral assassin (shout out Triple H) who would pick opponents’ defense apart to thread the puck to anybody who was open. They were Batman and Robin. The perfect duo. One is the best passer in the league, the other is the best shooter in the league. A match made in hockey Heaven.
They (along with the services of players like Mike Green, Alex Semin, John Carlson, T.J. Oshie and Evgeny Kuznetsov) helped to create one of the most lethal power plays the NHL had ever seen, with Backstrom on the half wall and Ovi standing in what would become known as his office.
As much success as the duo had together, they also ran into the same problems together — lack of playoff success. Every time the Capitals ran into the Pittsburgh Penguins or the New York Rangers, it was Ovechkin and Backstrom who would take the blunt of the assault from the media and everyone else critiquing them. Every year the questions would be “can you win with Ovechkin and Backstrom?” and every year those voices got louder and louder. Everyone began to wonder if these two were the right guys to bring a championship to D.C. for the first time in the franchise’s history.
Then, of course, they did.
The duo played some of the best hockey of their careers en route to theirs, and the Capitals franchise’s first Stanley Cup. Ovi won the Conn Smythe Trophy as the MVP of the playoffs with 15 goals and 12 assists for 27 points in 24 games. Backstrom, who dealt with a serious hand injury during the postseason, still put up 5 goals and 18 assists for 23 points in 20 games. After all the years of disappointment and heartbreak they had endured, the two got to hoist the Stanley Cup together. It was so fitting for them to lift it as a duo after what the two of them had experienced being the faces of the franchise together for so long. They exorcised their own demons, and they did it side-by-side which many amazing teammates never get to do together. Credit goes to ownership and management as well for never giving up on these two guys that they knew could get them over the hump.
Since then, the two haven’t slowed down much at all. Backstrom took over during the Capitals’ brief stint in the 2019 Playoffs, putting up 5 goals and 8 points in 7 games, and then proceeded to lead the team in point-scoring last year during the 2020-21 season. Ovi, on the other hand, has consistently been putting up close to 50 goals (aside from last season) and had arguably the greatest start to a season that e has ever had this season and was mentioned in the Hart Trophy conversation. Not to mention, Ovi is seriously in the hunt for Wayne Gretzky’s all-time goal record and is only two goals away from tying Jaromir Jagr for the third most in NHL history.
Heading into tonight’s contest, the two have accomplished the following stats in their 999 games played together:
- 999 GP
- 863 goals
- 1,190 assists
- 2,053 points
- 790 PP points
- Combined +203
That’s not a bad track record for two guys that have been doubted and critiqued for over a decade about their play.
Here’s to our favorite NHL duo of all time: Alexander Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom — the guys we always believed in. Thanks for all of the amazing memories together 🍻
“Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.” – Helen Keller.