Swift swede Carl Hagelin is hard to miss when he’s on the ice. And yet in far too many games this season, the third-year forward has simply disappeared.
A fast start to the season stalled in the middle of November and then simply broke down in December, leaving Hagelin a disparate piece in the team’s puzzle. After posting eight points in his first seven games, he put up just three points through the final ten games of November. Entering Sunday night’s game against the Flames, it had been seven games without a point for Hagelin.
“And you think that’s bad?”, Brian Boyle thought to himself. “Try 16 games, man.”
But with all due respect to Boyle, the Rangers can probably survive his scoring drought. He’s not exactly the type of player you factor into your offensive outlook. Hagelin, though, is an important weapon in the team’s arsenal, and the Rangers are a weaker group without him.
In games Hagelin has scored a point this season, the Rangers are 8-2. When he’s held off the scoresheet, they’re 5-9. To an extent, you could say, the Rangers go as he goes. But Hagelin, despite his breakneck speed, isn’t always going. He takes himself out of games for long stretches at a time, drifting toward the perimeter of the ice on offense while defending with a drive-by mentality.
But when he plays with a purpose, Hagelin is one of the most effective players on this Rangers team. His speed is an asset the opposition has to respect, and when he takes defensemen on, when he skates right at them, he creates a gap entering the zone that gives the offense room to maneuver. And below the goal line, he makes his own space in congested areas with the quick little moves of a running back.
Sunday night against the Flames, in a 4-3 Ranger win, Hagelin’s proved his value to the team. He was a force from the get-go, moving his feet every second he spent on the ice. Playing on a line with Benoit Pouliot and Dominic Moore, he helped the Rangers establish a consistent forecheck, something the team has been missing the past three games.
He was rewarded in the second period with his fifth goal of the season, converting a quick wraparound after beating Lee Stempniak to a loose puck behind the net. But goal or not, Hagelin deserves praise for his effort, who reaffirmed the fact that he can be a difference-maker for this team.
He still has more work to do and more of an imprint to leave, but Sunday night was a good start. After fading through November and early Decemeber, it appears Hagelin may have caught a second wind. Let’s see if he can keep this one in his sails.