Ben Raby, wtop.com
WASHINGTON - Washington Capitals center Nicklas Backstrom was named the NHL’s third star of the week, the League announced Monday.
In three games last week, Backstrom had three goals and three assists. He also scored both the game-tying and game-winning goals in the Caps’ 5-4 overtime win over Anaheim last Tuesday.
“I’m scoring points and it feels good,” Backstrom said, “but I think we’ve gotten to another level as a team.”
Coming off a career-low 65 points last season, Backstrom has been instrumental in the Capitals best start in franchise history (a 9-3-0 record through 12 games).
The Caps’ No.1 center leads the team with 18 points (five goals and 13 assists), and is third overall in NHL scoring, behind only Toronto’s Phil Kessel (21 points) and Philadelphia’s Claude Giroux (19 points).
“I haven’t really noticed anything different, except maybe he’s shooting a little more,” head coach Bruce Boudreau said of Backstrom’s game this season.
“But with Nicky, whether he’s scoring or not scoring, he’s such a contributor at both ends of the ice that you’d never know as a coach whether he’s playing a bad game or a good game if you’re just looking at offensive statistics.”
Backstrom credits his quick start to the collective maturation of the team and to his beginning the season healthy.
The 23-year-old suffered a thumb injury last February that sidelined him for five games and slowed him down for the rest of the season.
In nine playoff games last spring, Backstrom was held to just two assists.
“Obviously you play better when you’re healthy and I was struggling a bit with my thumb,” Backstrom said. “It wasn’t an excuse last year. There were just things that happened that we had to deal with, but obviously I’m feeling better now.”
Backstrom’s 10 power play points this season are also a League-best, and he enters Tuesday’s game against Dallas with four straight multi-point games.
Minnesota Wild goalie Josh Harding was named the NHL’s first star of the week after going 3-0-0 with a goals-against-average of 0.99 and a .968 save percentage.
Backstrom’s teammate at the 2010 Winter Olympics, Dallas Stars forward Loui Eriksson, was named the NHL’s second star of the week after scoring twice and adding four assists in a pair of Dallas wins.
Catch the Capitals and Stars Tuesday at 7:05. Coverage begins with Caps Pregame on Federal News Radio, 1500AM and online at www.wfed.com.