Nicklas Backstrom Prospering in Washington

Zach EvansContributor IJanuary 6, 2009

The Other Nicklas Backstrom

We are just around the time of the All-Star Game, as people and analysts around the sporting world will begin to give out their mid-season awards for best teams, players, and etc. To me, the most improved player in the Eastern Conference, and possibly the NHL, is Washington Capitals forward Nicklas Backstrom.

After a slow start to his year prompting cries of a sophomore slump, Backstrom has silenced and surprised everyone with his play in the last 30 games. Backstrom has 11 goals and 33 assists for 44 points, second on the team only to the Great Eight, Alex Ovechkin.

Of course, living in Washington and growing up loving the Capitals, it might seem a little biased that I pick Backstrom as the most improved player, but just look at the glowing stats from the second year center.

Backstrom totaled 69 points last year (14-55-69) in the 82-game regular season. Through the halfway mark Backstrom has 44 points. He is on pace for at least an 80 point season, with possibly 20 goals and 60 assists.

The Capitals are 26-11-3 (55 points) with a 10-point lead in the Southeast Division and second place in the Eastern Conference overall, trailing the Bruins by seven points (who the Caps already have a 3-1 victory over this year). The Caps are also an Eastern Conference best 17-1-1 on home ice this season.

Backstrom has complimented the exceptional play of reigning NHL MVP Alex Ovechkin (27-26-53) and has helped keep the Capitals on pace for the playoffs.

Yeah, I know your gonna say, "Well he's playing on a line with Ovechkin, of course he's going to get points!" Well guys, I don't see Petr Sykora or Ruslan Fedotenko racking up the points because they're playing with Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin!

It takes skill to play with someone as highly skilled as Ovechkin, and the Capitals are benefiting from the great chemistry that two have had ever since they were paired up last year.

I know Nicklas Backstrom is the most improved player from last season, but that's just me. What do you have to say? Sound off, I don't mind. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion.