Capitals rookie center Nicklas Backstrom concluded Washington’s summer development camp with a flourish in July, scoring a brilliant game-winning overtime goal off a feed from linemate Francois Bouchard. Shortly after that goal, he took questions from a couple of reporters.
Is that goal a confidence boost for you? This is your first time over here actually in competition. To finally get that goal, is that something you were concerned about?
“No. I wanted to show what I can do. If I don’t score or something like that [it doesn’t matter]. I am going to do my best here and show what I can do.”
How do you feel like camp has gone for you?
“I think it is getting better and better. In the beginning it was difficult because of the smaller rinks and the game is going faster than in Sweden. In the beginning it was a little difficult, but it’s going to be better and better.”
Was the adjustment to the smaller rink more difficult than you anticipated?
“Yeah, a little bit. Because in Sweden there is so much ice all the time. You have a little more time for thinking. Here you have to do your thinking before you get the puck. It’s a little more difficult but I have to get used to it.”
Did you talk with anyone like [ex-Capital Bengt Gustafsson] or anybody who has played over here about that or any other aspects of playing over here?
“Yeah, I talked to Andreas Dackell who plays for my team in Sweden. I talked to him but he didn’t say anything special.”
What were your thoughts when you heard the Capitals signed Michael Nylander?
“That’s really good. He’s a really good player and he’s Swedish too, so that’s good for me. Maybe I can ask him advice if something happens. It’s really good.”
He said he’d be happy to serve as your big brother if you’d babysit his six kids. Have you done much babysitting?
“No, I haven’t any experience as a babysitter but of course I am going to do it if he asks.”
Getting back to the goal for a minute, it was a long shift and you guys had been out there for a while. When it’s 3-on-3, your legs can get heavy quickly. When you got the puck at this end, you were on the far side of the ice and it seemed like you might be thinking of trying to get off [the ice]. Then you saw the 2-on-1 open up and decided to go for it.
“Yeah, I saw it was going to be a 2-on-1 and I was thinking, ‘We have to score.’ It’s only a scrimmage but it is fun to win the game.”
It was an interesting scrimmage too, because with all the power play time – one power play after another going back and forth – there were only four goals scored during that period of time. There were scoring chances, but the penalty killing was good and the defensemen here seem like they are very advanced.
“Yeah, they are really good. That’s a big difference to me between America and Sweden. They always block the shots here. In Sweden, they just let them shoot. That’s a big difference. I think here in America so many shots get blocked and that’s really good for the goalies.”
I think that comes back to the smaller rink, too. It’s easier to block more shots when the rink is smaller.
Have you been thinking about how you are going to adjust your game in order to maybe excel in the smaller rink?
“I play the same in Sweden. I am the centerman and I am always in the middle. Here the defense can pass to me in the middle. I think it’s the same here in [North] America. The centerman is in the middle, and the D can pass to me so I can pass off to the wings. That’s the same, but it’s a little more difficult here.”
You’re so defensively responsible. Have you ever had a coach tell you to not go back to the blueline or cover for pinching defensemen so much? It’s unusual for a guy your age to be so defensively responsible.
“In hockey today, I think you have to be good at offense and defense. The last year in Sweden my coaches told me that I have to be better on defense. You have to work on both offense and defense.”
Are they letting you have any fun here, or is it just the hotel and the rink?
“I love to play hockey. I’m just here to play hockey.”