As the calendar turns to 2020, the Calgary Flames will need an excellent second half of the season from center Mikael Backlund of Vasteras, Sweden in order to make the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the second year in a row and the fourth time in six years. So far in 2019-20, Backlund only has 18 points in 43 games. That is behind the pace he has had over the last four seasons, where he has averaged 48 points per season.
However on Thursday, the Flames delivered an impressive 4-3 win over the New York Rangers, and it was Backlund that scored Calgary’s most significant goal. It came when the Flames were down two men with Sam Bennett and Derek Ryan both in the penalty box with hooking minors. That is right. It was the Flames that scored on a three on five.
Backlund’s shorthanded goal was unassisted and put the Flames up 2-0 at 7:16 of the first period. In fact, the last two goals Backlund has scored have been shorthanded as he scored from Michael Frolik and Mark Giordano at the 57 second mark of the third period in a 5-1 Flames win over the Edmonton Oilers on December 27.
Frolik meanwhile has since been traded to the Buffalo Sabres. On January 2, he was moved from the Flames to the Buffalo Sabres for a fourth round draft pick in the 2020 National Hockey League Entry Draft.
The loss of Frolik now puts added pressure and responsibility on Backlund, who is an excellent penalty killer. One statistic that is most impressive of Backlund’s career with the Flames since 2008-09 is that he has a takeaway to giveaway ratio of 533:382 in 663 NHL career games.
In 43 games with the Flames in 2019-20, Backlund has six goals and 12 assists and is a +4. He has four power play points, two shorthanded points, two game winning goals, 84 shots on goal, 224 faceoff wins, seven blocked shots, 27 hits, 34 takeaways and 31 giveaways.
The Flames are currently in fifth place in the Pacific Division. With a record of 21 wins, 17 regulation losses and five losses in extra time for 47 points, they are two points back of the Oilers for a playoff spot in the Western Conference.