The Washington Capitals are in town, and naturally plenty of attention will be devoted to Alex Ovechkin, whose 46 goals and 20 power play goals lead the league by wide margins.
There’s also Nicklas Backstrom, the distributor that sees heavy time with Ovechkin, often on the power play. With 55 assists, he trails Sidney Crosby by three helpers and Joe Thornton by one as the league’s top assist man. Checking in with Mike Richards, there was a great deal of praise levied on one of the league’s top set-up men and a player responsible for pulling the strings on the NHL’s top-rated power play unit.
“He’s really good. He’s kind of like Peter Forsberg how he slows the game down,” Richards said of Backstrom. “His hands and his skill are probably one of the best in the league, and I think he doesn’t get as much credit as he deserves because you have a lot of stardom on Ovi. But he’s up there for one of the best in the league.”
Richards, on keys to defending Alex Ovechkin:
I mean, he’s a shooter. That’s evident. He gets a lot of his opportunities on the power play, so we have to take that away. But he’s a threat every time he’s on the ice, and we have to know where he is and just have to understand that he’s a shooter and Backstrom’s the passer. So it’s just a matter of trying to get the puck out of Backstrom’s hands and not allow Ovechkin to get into scoring areas to shoot.
Richards, on the win and loss swings of the past month:
It’s just little things that are going to help you win games, and the sooner we understand that, the sooner we’re going to be able to correct it. We have to match the level of desperation that the other teams come in here with, because everyone’s fighting for playoff spots and playoffs, and we have to match that desperation or we’re going to end up on the losing side of most games.
Richards, on whether losing despite high shot totals can be blamed on poor luck:
No. I mean, you could. That’s the easy way out. You’re getting your opportunities. You’re getting chances. It’s just getting pucks into the net and bearing down on our chances, and we’ve had some. I think that’s just the level of desperation that you need, to find a way to put those pucks in the net and find a way to score goals.