Today GD.se published a video interview with Nicklas Bäckström and Calle Johanssson, conducted by Mittmedia’s Markus Bäckström on January 14th. My translation of the interview is below.
What do you think about Washington Capitals season so far?
Backstrom: It has actually been a bit up and down, but we are in a playoff spot right now and hopefully we can stay there. We have had some rough stretches but hopefully we will play better in the second part of the season that starts now.
What do you think about your own game?
It’s been ok some of the time. I think we have played well on the power play, but the five on five play leaves something to be desired. Overall I’ve been ok but I can be a bit better, I think.
That’s downplaying it a bit. You are currently leading the team in scoring and are at ninth place in the league in scoring.
What can I say, we have had a good power play and half the points have come from that. I think that we can all play better at five on five, and that we can play much better as a team.
I talked to some of the reporters that watch you play every day and they think that you have had a fantastic season, and that it’s maybe your best season ever. What do you think about that?
Then I say that NHL is all about the stats. That’s the thing they look at, and of course the points are there but I think the play in itself, I think there are things that can be better.
Photo credit: Joel Marklund
How are you feeling about the Olympics?
It’s going to be so much fun and I’m super excited about the Olympics and the last time around in Vancouver was an amazing experience, even though we didn’t get past the quarterfinal. It’s such a huge event and I’m looking forward to it, we have a good team, and I think we will take some teams by surprise.
There has been some difference in opinion in Sweden among the experts about your participation in Sochi. Some have felt that you shouldn’t be on the team because you are not good enough to play on one of the first two lines. Kristian Huselius is one of the experts that thinks that you shouldn’t be one of the two topline centers on the team. What do think about that?
I don’t really have much to say about it. He has his opinions and all people are entitled to their own opinions. I can’t really say much about it, it’s his opinion, what he thinks and feels about Tre Kronor’s Olympic team. It’s just fine by me, I honestly don’t care about that, I have other more important things to think about than what he thinks.
You don’t think that it’s a strange thing to say since you are the scoring leader among Swedish players ?
That’s not up to me to answer that. That’s up to other people.
Photo Credit: Joel Marklund
What do you have to say about Nicklas Bäckström’s season with the Capitals?
Calle Johansson: Unbelievably good. I don’t think a lot of people understands how much work Nicklas is doing every night. Everybody is just looking at the points he creates. He does score a lot, but he also takes on an incredibly big responsibility defensively. And he plays with players that maybe have freer roles, and it’s up to Nicklas to take on that extra defensive responsibility, and he is doing it superbly well.
Of course I knew before I got here that he was an incredible hockey player, but I’m almost more impressed now when I see him every day.
At home in Sweden all the talk is about Henrik Zetterberg, the Sedins, Henrik Lundqvist and Erik Karlsson and not very much about Nicklas.
Yes, that’s right. I think that’s typically Swedish, isn’t it?
Some guys get more attention than others, and once that started, that’s how it continues to be. Once it gets decided who is deserving of the press and the attention no one wants to break the pattern, and that’s a pity.
But the people that know hockey, know how good Nicklas is. And fortunately he isn’t exactly a person that seeks the attention either. But on the other hand, it would be nice if the average Joe understood how good he really is.
Do you think he is forgotten?
Yes, I think you can say that. He is definitely underappreciated, except for the people that see him every day, those who play with him and against him. All the teams over here know how good he is. He isn’t underappreciated by them, it’s more the general public that does that.
Some experts, like Kristian Huselius, didn’t think that Nicklas should be included on the Olympic team.
Didn’t he think that Bäckström should be included? I don’t know if you could be called an “expert” if you don’t think that Nicklas Bäckström should be included on the Olympic team. That’s pretty much what I can say about that.
You think that he’s wrong?
Yes, from my perspective that’s wrong but I can’t decide what other people should think but I think it’s completely wrong. I don’t think Kristian really understands how good Nicklas is. He isn’t watching him every day. I actually don’t think there’s any coach in any national team that wouldn’t include Nicklas on their roster.
How important do you think Nicklas will be for Tre Kronor in Sochi?
He is one of the top players on the team so he will be really important for the team. The thing that is so good about him is that…I can compare him to Zetterberg, that’s a great idea to compare the two because they are both two-way players. As I’ve been saying, Nicklas isn’t just a one-way player, he can take a defensive responsibility. He kills penalties and he can play against the other team’s best players. He is a divinely gifted power play player. He can do it all, it must be a coach’s dream to have a guy like that on his team.
After watching all the Swedish NHL players every day, what do you think Sweden’s chances are in Sochi?
I think the Swedish team looks great. I’m not saying that they will win the gold for sure but I think that they have as good as a chance as the Canadian team, or Russia if people think that’s the team that should win, or the Americans. I definitely think that they are candidates to win the gold.
Photo Credit: Joel Marklund
You became a dad in October, how is that going?
Bäckström: It’s been very exciting, incredibly fun and a bit of an adjustment. I live another life now but it’s been incredible. Both my girlfriend and daughter feel great, and she is growing every day. It’s an amazing thing to follow your own child develop.
Do you get any sleep at night?
Yes, I do. My girlfriend is nice enough to get up at night so I can sleep, especially on nights before games, when you need the extra rest.
And when do you take care of her?
Whenever I’m home I try to take care of everything so she can take some time off. I think we complete each other quite well, actually.
I saw on twitter that Adam Oates said that you should name your kid Adam?
He did? I think that was a joke. Everyone knows that you can’t name a girl Adam.
What did you name her?
Photo Credit: Joel Marklund
Have you and Alexander Ovechkin talked a lot about the Olympics?
We haven’t talked much about it, yet. Though we have talked about Sochi the town, that they are building a lot of new buildings there, and about the security in Sochi and Russia. That’s about it. We haven’t started with the trash talk just yet, we have to focus on Washington first, but I’m sure it will come. It’s fun to play against your teammates.
You see a lot of Alexander Ovechkin jerseys around town. He is what you call a franchise player over here and you are more in the shadows. How do you feel about that?
Ah, I view that as a good thing. I mean, his personality and everything he has done on the ice, few people have done what he has done. He is the face of Washington and he is the one the sells the most.
I don’t have a problem with being in the background, that’s a positive thing for me. I’m more that type of person that just comes to work and does my work, and I always try to give it 100%. I honestly don’t need a lot of attention. I mean I don’t really mind talking to the media, for instance, but I don’t feel bad if I’m not in demand either.
That’s the type of person I am, and always have been, and will continue to be.
Do you think you get as much credit as you deserve considering the amount of points you have put up over here over the years? Back at home in Sweden all the talk is about Zetterberg, Sedins and Henrik Lundqvist.
Um, that’s a hard question. Actually, I doesn’t really matter to me.
Why do you think it is like that, though?
I don’t know. Maybe because they have been around longer. I really don’t know. It’s a hard question to answer. But they do deserve it. They are that good. They are really good hockey players.
But don’t you deserve that too?
I’m not the right person to answer that question. I mean I always try to give it my all and do the best I can. It doesn’t matter if I get credit or not. The people I want to get credit from, I do get credit from anyway, and that’s what’s important to me.
Do you think that Tre Kronor can take home the gold in Sochi?
I think we have a good chance at the gold. Russia and Canada are the favorites. But as always, five or six teams teams will have a chance to win it all.
Photo Credit: Joel Marklund
Do you dare come back to Washington if you won the gold on Ovechkin’s home turf?
Yes, I would. The only thing that can’t happen is that he wins the gold.
That would be hard for you?
Yeah, that would be really hard for me. But we will take it from him.
Who is the biggest star in Sochi?
Maybe Sidney Crosby or Alexander Ovechkin.
Which Swedes do you think will medal in Sochi?
Tre Kronor with one, and two medals for the skiers.
What sports besides hockey do you want to watch in Sochi?
Depending on what’s possible to get to with my schedule, I want to watch cross country skiing since I’ve never been to that type of competition before.
What’s your favorite Olympic memory?
My best Olympic memory is from Vancouver even though we didn’t make it past the quarterfinal. The whole thing, to be part of the Olympics, is amazing. It was a big moment in my life.
Which headline would you like to read about yourself after the Olympics?
“Bäckström wins the final in sudden death.”
On the pressure to win the Stanley Cup and past playoff failures
It’s not like we talk in the room about the fact that we haven’t won in 40 years. It’s more that we come in every year and really try to win. We really want to win a Cup for the city.
I’m not sure it’s [the playoff failures] in our heads. But yes, maybe a little. But at the same time we don’t think about it a lot [during the season]. It’s more in the summer after the season is over that it wears on you.
I completely understand the fans’ frustration. As a player you always try to win and we know damn well that we are nothing without the fans. Of course you want to give back to the people that are paying a lot of money to come to the games.