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Capitals' Ovechkin, Backstrom again thriving together

by Adam Vingan /

ARLINGTON, Va. -- During the 2008-09 season, the Washington Capitals' in-game introduction video at Verizon Center featured several players in the roles of rock stars.

Alex Ovechkin was front and center as the band's lead vocalist, a natural outlet for his contagious charisma. Behind him, Nicklas Backstrom strummed the bass guitar, a less glamorous but unequivocally essential responsibility.

Six seasons later, their foray into faux rock stardom provides an apt metaphor. Ovechkin still commands enormous attention as the NHL's ultimate showman. Meanwhile, Backstrom has continued to quietly provide the underlying rhythm, keeping the Capitals on beat.

"It's sort of like a real relationship between two lovers, essentially," Washington defenseman Mike Green said. "They're completely different players, but they balance each other out and they work well together."

This season, the longtime linemates are among the League's most productive players.

Ovechkin leads the NHL with 38 goals and is on pace for the sixth 50-goal season of his career, a feat only Hockey Hall of Fame members Mike Bossy, Wayne Gretzky, Marcel Dionne, Guy Lafleur and Mario Lemieux have accomplished.

Backstrom's 64 points, including a League-high 46 assists, have him in contention for the Art Ross Trophy. It would be his first individual NHL award and provide the recognition his teammates and coach Barry Trotz believe he rightfully deserves.

"Sometimes there's guys who are more dynamic and exciting in the League," Trotz said of Backstrom last week. "But there's no one who's as efficient."

The Capitals finish their season series with the Pittsburgh Penguins in the Wednesday Night Rivalry game at Verizon Center (8 p.m. ET, NBCSN, TVA Sports, SN1). Washington, which trails Pittsburgh by one point in the Metropolitan Division, has won the first three games by a combined 10-1 score.

Since Backstrom's rookie season in 2007-08, he and Ovechkin have spent more than 75 percent of their even-strength ice time together, according to

Ovechkin has 677 points and Backstrom 558 since the start of that season, ranking first and sixth in the NHL entering Tuesday. Backstrom has assisted on 45.6 percent of Ovechkin's 362 goals over that span.

"We've played together since he got here and of course we have great chemistry," Ovechkin said. "Sometimes he just knows where I am, sometimes I know where he is. It's a situation where you feel each other well. It's been working all the time, and I hope it's going to work like this more."

Washington's vaunted power play operates through Backstrom and Ovechkin, who have combined on 17 of the Capitals' 44 man-advantage goals this season. It is there where their complementary skill sets and respective instincts can be truly appreciated.

Backstrom's playmaking ability and craftiness can render opponents helpless as he surveys his options. Ovechkin is the frequent recipient of Backstrom's pinpoint passes.

"Y ou can't be great in this game by yourself," Trotz said. "You can have some successes, but you can't have great success. And by the things that [Ovechkin] does, the things that [Backstrom] does, it really emphasizes their strengths and takes their game to the next level."

Of course, missing from Ovechkin and Backstrom's list of accomplishments is a Stanley Cup title. Washington has not advanced past the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs during their careers.

That, above all else, is what motivates them to produce.

"I think it's all about hunger," Backstrom said. "I think we both want to win and we both want to do the right things. … It's all about hunger. We want to help the team and we want to do something good about this team. You just don't want to let it slide."

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