Although he plays for a struggling team, in the process of rebuilding, Mikael Backlund is a focused journeyman, who himself had gone through his own period of rebuilding. He’s finally at the stage where his trials and tribulations, recoveries from injuries, and investment in hard work have paid off in dividends. For now, he’s part of the Flames’ core, and is second in points and goals. As of late, this Flame has been on fire (insert cheesy grin here)! If he continues to push himself, we’ll be hearing a lot more of this Swede.
RK: You scored the game winner in OT on Saturday night vs. Minnesota and were named the NHL’s 3rd Star of the Week. However, you said that Calgary previously had a lot of doubt about you. What do you think has changed in your game and in your mind frame that has made you get all these goals lately?
MB: I’ve been leaving it all out there on the ice, enjoying myself, playing hard and not thinking too much. I have been going out on the ice and having fun, doing what I did when I was a younger kid.
RK: You guys just had a 5-game win streak at home. Talk about why you were able to beat those inter-conference teams, and had a rough time in MTL.
MB: I think the difference was that we didn’t have that jump in Montreal. We didn’t play that bad a game, but we just didn’t create enough, offensively. We didn’t have enough screens in front of Price; he saw every shot and we gave him an easy night. Had we made a couple of goals, maybe we would have made it tougher for him. At home, we had the offensive jump, everyone was skating well, and we had a lot of forecheck going.
RK: Which players on this team have been the most influential to you?
MB: Gio (Captain Mark Giordano) is a good guy, a great leader, and a great player. He was never drafted, and he worked really hard to become the player he is today. I take a lot of pride, myself, in work hard too. I never cheat in a game or in the gym, like Gio. He’s a great pro and I look up to him.
RK: You grew up in Västerås (ves-ter-OOS), which is where Nick Lidström is from. Have you ever met him, who was your idol growing up, and which current NHL player do you most admire?
MB: Yeah, I’ve met Lidström a few times and he seems like a really good guy. He lives in my home town, and I run into him once in a while around the rink at home. Since I’m a forward, my favorite players were always [Peter] Forsberg and Teemu Selänne; they were always my guys. Selänne still is my favorite player; it’s amazing how he’s still playing and is still such a good player. Forsberg, too, had a great career.
RK: What’s your home town like; I heard it’s nicknamed the Gurkstaden or “Cucumber City?”
MB: Hahahaha, that’s what it’s called, but I don’t know why! It’s a decent city, 130,000 people live there, right on a lake that connects Stockholm. It’s about an hour from Stockholm and it’s a beautiful city. It’s where I grew up, and all my friends and family are there. I like being there over the summer because it’s a good sized city, the lake’s right there so it’s perfect! (Note: Cucumbers were popularly grown in the 18th and 19th centuries, and so that’s why Västerås received the nickname Gurkstaden (the Cucumber City).)
RK: What’s your game-day ritual after you finish up with the morning skate?
MB: Now, I’ll go back to the hotel [the Marriott across from the Nassau Coliseum] and have lunch. Then I’ll hang out in the room and watch some “Friends,” talk to people at home [in Sweden] and send some text to people at home [in Sweden]. After that, I’ll have a good hour to hour-and-a-half nap. Then, I will go for a walk to wake up again, and I’ll have some coffee and a little snack. Then I’ll come back to the rink for the game.