Seems like there’s a bit of a groundswell in support of the idea of sitting Mikael Backlund for a few games. Points haven’t been coming for the 22-year old center since his return and his rough second period last night probably lends credence to the notion.
I contend Mikael has been mostly excellent since he was re-activated, however.
Backs has just 3 points in 17 games so far this season. Not a stat line that would impress anybody. However, his relative corsi rate is +14.8 – the best amongst regular skaters. That means the Flames generate 14.8 more shots at the opposition’s net when Backlund is on the ice versus when he’s on the bench. As a result, Backlund sports one of the best scoring chance ratios on the Flames currently as well (54.4%).
Aside from last night, the Backlund, Comeau and Stempniak line has been a pretty consistent in terms of outplaying other team’s third lines on a nightly basis. I consider their formation part of the reason Calgary has been able to capture points in the standings so consistently in the last 10 games or so.
So why isn’t the kid scoring? A couple of reasons:
1.) Bad luck
A PDO (on-ice SH% + SV%) of 93.7. The league mean is 100 and almost everyone tends to regress to it in the long-term. Backlund’s luck has been terrible to start the year. His on-ice shooting percentage at 5-on-5 is just 4.46 (whereas most skaters hang around 8% or so). We know the Backlund trio has been generating chances, so it’s not like one can claim pucks aren’t making their way to the opponents net when he plays. They just aren’t going in at a league average rate right now.
At some point, the boucnes will even out and his scoring at ES will improve.
2.) Limited PP ice
Backund has averaged less than 1:30 on the PP per game this year. He’s seen a total of 25 minutes with the man advantage. By contrast, Iginla, Tanguay and Jokinen are already over 100 minutes. It’s tougher to put up notable point totals – or to break out of slump – when you don’t see much time on the PP.
I’ve been relatively pleased from what I’ve seen out of Backlund this season, last night aside. His skating seems faster and he’s no longer taking prayer shots from way outside of the scoring area. Once the percentages rebound for him, the perception of his struggles will likely disappear.