With Nicklas Backstrom out for Game 2, the New York Islanders have a big opportunity to pull ahead 2-0 in the series.
After leaving Game 1 following a hit by New York Islanders Anders Lee, Washington Capitals center Nicklas Backstrom left the game and did not return. We found out on Thursday that Backstrom would not suit up for the Capitals in Game 2 on Friday.
Backstrom will miss Game 2 as he goes through “protocol” according to Capitals head coach Todd Reirden.
It’s unfortunate that Backstrom was injured on the play, but with the Capitals top-line center out for Game 2, the Islanders have a big advantage going into Friday’s contest.
In 127 career playoff games for the Washington Capitals, Nicklas Backstrom has put up 107 points. His most productive postseason was in 2017-18 when the Caps won the cup, putting up 23 points in 20 games.
With him in the lineup, the Capitals have a balanced and dangerous top six. It makes them a tough opponent for the Islanders to contain and keep off the scoresheet.
Without him, that balanced attack isn’t there.
Evgeny Kuznetsov can take the top center spot and likely fill that role well for the Capitals in Backstrom’s absence. But that second-line center role will likely fall to Lars Eller.
Lars Eller was away for the birth of his son Alexander (congrats to the Ellers) and will be in the lineup for the Capitals in Game 2.
Eller is a good player, and he could likely fill Kuznetsov’s place well enough. But there’s a clear drop off from Kuznetsov to Eller that gives the Islanders an advantage in Game 2.
Look, even with Kuznetsov, the Islanders ran rampant over the Capitals in Game 1 at 5on5. If not for the Islanders ridiculous parade to the penalty box the Capitals likely get blown out in Game 1.
Backstrom is the Washington Capitals primary playmaker, faceoff man, and creative outlet in the offensive zone. Without him, the Capitals lose a big piece of their offense.
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The fact that Backstrom wasn’t able to continue playing in Game 1 and now won’t play in Game 2 is unfortunate. But the games do go on and the Islanders need to press that advantage now that they have it to go up 2-0 in the series.