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Backstrom A Calder Finalist

Surprising absolutely no one who saw him play from Thanksgiving on, Caps rookie pivot Nicklas Backstrom was named a finalist for the Calder Trophy (for NHL rookie of the year) earlier today.

Some numbers, per the Caps:
  • Backstrom, who was one of four Caps to play every game, turned in the second most prolific season ever for a Capitals rookie, as he helped lead Washington to the playoffs for the first time since 2003. He finished second in rookie scoring with 69 points (Kane led with 72) and lead all rookies and set a new Capitals' rookie record with 55 assists.
  • He had 60 points (13g-47a) in his last 61 games, was a +18 in that time and had three four-point games. In the last 18 games of the regular season, and with the playoffs on the line, he had 18 points (5g-13a) and had a +16 rating. Backstrom tied for third among rookies with a +13 rating and had the highest rating among the top 15 rookie scorers.
  • His four game-winning goals ranked second among rookies and his +19 rating outside of the Southeast Division paced all rookies against non-divisional opponents. Backstrom finished the season as the only rookie with at least 45 points to have a plus-rating in both home and road games. He also became the first rookie in NHL history to post back-to-back four-assist games (1/19 vs. Florida and 1/21 at Pittsburgh.)
  • The 20-year-old turned in successful numbers of the power play as well. He tied for first among rookies with 22 power-play assists and ranked third in rookie power-play points with 25.
And while playoff performance isn't considered in Calder voting (sidenote: if Alex Ovechkin wasn't Hart-worthy if the Caps didn't make the playoffs, why are Pat Kane and Jonathan Toews Calder-worthy?), Backstrom - who struggled mightily early in the Flyers series - came to life in the first round once he and Sergei Fedorov swapped spots on the top two lines (his 16 shots in games four through seven were the most he had over a four-game stretch all year), and ended up tied for the team lead in goals with four.

So here are some questions I'll throw out to the group - Does Nicky have a chance of winning the Calder? Looking forward to next year, would you rather see him back with Alex Ovechkin or centering Alex Semin on the second line? What part of his game do you think needs the most improvement?