More than halfway through the 2011/12 NHL season, there is little doubt over what the league's main talking point has been: Concussions. Sidney Crosby, Jeff Skinner, Ryan Miller, Victor Hedman, Claude Giroux, Kris Letang, and Shea Weber are the names of just a few players who have been missed significant time after being diagnosed with serious brain trauma injuries, as a concussion epidemic has swept its way across the league.
The Washington Capitals are one of the few teams who have managed to somewhat avoid what is rapidly becoming known as 'The Concussion Bug", with only Jay Beagle missing time with the injury after being knocked out in a fight with Pittsburgh's Arron Asham. While the Caps have had other problems, such as Mike Green's groin, concussions have not been one of them.
That is, until now.
Caps leading scorer Nicklas Bäckström has missed four straight games after a bad elbow to the head from Calgary Flames' Rene Bourque.
While Bäckström would return to finish the game and practice the following morning, he has not taken the ice since. There has been no update on his condition, and right now, the Swedish center remains out indefinitely with a concussion.
In his 38 games, Bäckström has 13 goals and 29 assists for 41 points, good for 17th in the league despite the missed games. In his absence, the Caps first lost two straight games 5-2, first to the San Jose Sharks then to the Los Angeles Kings, before returning home to defeat the arch-rival Pittsburgh Penguins 1-0 and the Tampa Bay Lightning 4-3. Alex Ovechkin has just one point in those four games, a goal against the Bolts; in the seven before Bäckström's concussion, Ovechkin scored seven goals and added four assists for 11 points, and Bäckström had two goals and eight assists for 10 points.
The first match after the 3-1 win over the Flames game where Bäckström was lost ended a four-game win streak for the Caps.
It's no coincidence that the success of the Caps is reliant on the success of captain Alex Ovechkin. His success is dependent on Bäckström.
Rene Bourque was suspended five games for the elbow, but considering Bäckström has already missed four and won't be back for a while, five games wasn't enough. He has since been traded to the Montreal Canadiens, whom the Caps play next week. Bourque will be in the lineup.
Who will answer the bell?