Rangers: Is Carl Hagelin a Calder candidate?
Steve ZipaySteve Zipay
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Has rookie Carl Hagelin's scoring surge put him in the conversation about Calder Trophy candidates?
Conversation, yes. Reality? Not so fast.
As of yesterday, Hagelin had 14 goals and 21 assists for 35 points. He was fifth in scoring among rookies and led in plus-minus.
Colorado's Gabriel Landeskog (20-26-46), who faced the Rangers last night, the Devils' Adam Henrique (15-31-46), Edmonton's Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (16-27-43) and Philadelphia's Matt Read (19-20-39) are considered the top candidates. Landeskog, the No. 2 overall pick in last summer's draft, is the clubhouse favorite. He's just 19 and not afraid to shoot. He's fired as many shots on goal as Marian Gaborik and Steven Stamkos.
But don't knock Hagelin's qualifications: He has played 21 fewer games than Landeskog (who has five power-play goals), 16 fewer than Read (three PP goals) and 11 fewer than Henrique, who has four shorthanded goals. The Swedish flash doesn't skate on the power play and has two shorthanded goals.
Which brings us to another question: The Rangers' power play entering last night's game against Colorado was 1-for-22, if you throw out the 3-for-6 against the Islanders last Sunday. That includes a handful of games with both Ryan Callahan and Michael Del Zotto sidelined. Why wasn't No. 62 out there?
Can Rangers go deep?
There's some serious concern for Rangers fans about the Blueshirts' chances of advancing past the first round should they finish second in the Atlantic Division to the Penguins, which would make them the fourth seed in the Eastern Conference. The thinking: A potential 4-5 matchup is much more troublesome than the 1-8.
Every season is different, naturally, but since the lockout, the first-round matchup comparisons aren't that lopsided. In the six playoffs since 2006, the No. 1 team in the East has beaten the No. 8 seed in five of six matchups; the No. 4 seed has beaten No. 5 four of six times.
Isn't the 4-5 series more grueling? Well, the 1-8 series has gone to seven games twice and five games three times, with one sweep. That's an average of 5.5 games. The 4-5 series has gone seven games once, six games three times and five twice, a 5.8 average. And in the six 1-8 East series, six games were decided in overtime, the same number as in the 4-5 series.
Out West is where the 4-5 matchup is more dangerous: The No. 5 seed has eliminated the No. 4 five of six times.
Race to the finish
The Rangers-Penguins race in the East could go down to the wire. After today's game in Philadelphia, the Penguins will have 11 games remaining, and so will the Rangers. The Pens have seven home games at CONSOL Energy center and four on the road, against the Senators, Sabres, Bruins and Islanders. The Rangers have six at home and five away: In Toronto, Winnipeg, Minnesota, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. Each team has two back-to-back series left.
Right wing Casey Wellman, acquired in the Erik Christensen trade with Minnesota on Feb. 3, is thriving with the AHL Whale; as of yesterday, he had seven goals and eight assists in 17 games . . . Teams are allowed four non-emergency call-ups after the trade deadline; the Rangers have used two on Mats Zuccarello and Tim Erixon. G Chad Johnson's two trips (to sub for flu-ridden Henrik Lundqvist) were considered emergencies . . . Bryant Gumbel's Real Sports profile of Lundqvist, taped earlier this month, airs Tuesday on HBO.