With more than a quarter of the season gone, the New York Rangers are sitting in the unusual position of eighth place. After Thursday’s 4-3 shootout loss to the New York Islanders, the Rangers were unable to gain vital ground in the Eastern Conference standings.
A victory would have taken the Rangers up to sixth place and even on points with the Toronto Maple Leafs with an extra game in their pocket. It wasn’t to be as a startling second period breakdown by the Blueshirts unfolded. The Islanders took advantage by scoring three unanswered goals until Carl Hagelin’s tying powerplay goal.
“They started to take momentum from us and it carried right over into the second period. Put that together for a ten, fifteen-minute span there, we weren’t good at all,” captain Ryan Callahan explained. “They were all over us and they scored three goals in that span. It just shows you need to play the full sixty in this league to come out with a win. It’s not acceptable to have that lax effort.”
One of player whose engine has been running at full throttle is Hagelin. He’s been buzzing all over the ice and contributing both with his world-class speed and improved play in the corners.
“Carl’s playing well. He’s really utilizing his speed and is a tough guy in the corners,” Marc Staal stated. “He’s got some confidence down there with the puck, protecting the puck and making moves. Against us in practice, he’s quick and tough to contain.”
Staal continued, “Whoever he’s out there with, he creates room because he’s so quick on the forecheck. He opens it up for his linemates and for things to happen. He really uses it to his advantage.”
In his past three games, Hagelin has scored four goals and two assists. His electrifying play has carried over from last season and he’s avoided the sophomore slump in his second NHL season. Teammates inside the Rangers’ locker room are
“It’s exciting. You know how good of speed he has. Now he’s taking that speed and creating good plays with it,” Callahan said of Hagelin’s play. “You saw at the end of last year, he was starting to get that confidence in creating things. Last couple of games, he’s been all over the ice and fun to watch. When he’s skating like that he’s a hard guy to defend.”
When asked whether this was the best hockey Hagelin has played in his Rangers career, Stepan felt that was the case.
“I think so,” Stepan responded. “He’s playing hard and he’s so fast on the puck. It’s a big thing for us. He’s earned it, he’s worked really hard and he’s done the things in the offseason to get himself ready to play this year.”
Hagelin’s second period power play goal came at an opportune time as the Rangers had surrendered three consecutive goals to the Islanders until his reply. As no goals were scored in the third period, it was Hagelin’s goal that ensured the Rangers one point as they battled in overtime.
“We don’t handle the surge, it ends up in the back of our net three times. It’s a big goal by Carl. It’s a great goal, guy’s going to the net and it’s a big goal for us,” Stepan explained. “We find a way to pop one in, so it’s definitely important. Obviously, every single night you want to get the two points. When you have a chance like we did tonight, it’s disappointing.”
Hagelin credits his teammates for helping him find space on the ice. The presence of Rick Nash allows Hagelin to find prized real estate on the ice and follow the puck for rebound goals.
“He’s is so strong on the puck, it’s usually all eyes on him,” Hagelin said of Nash. “I just try to find good spots to be in so he can find me, or just go to net because he’s usually going to get the puck through.”
The 24-year-old Swede has struck up a good understanding with Derek Stepan. While it hasn’t resulted in a ton of points, for Stepan – the partnership clearly has potential.
“He’s easy to play with,” Hagelin stated. “It’s easy for me as a lefty, coming up with a righty so I can make a good forehand pass. It feels good, I know where he’s going to be and he’s such a smart player, so I don’t have to worry too much.”
Hagelin is currently on a three-game goal scoring streak and is continuing to pile pressure on opposing net-minders. The Rangers are off until Sunday when the Washington Capitals visit Madison Square Garden.
He’ll be looking to take advantage of either Michal Neuvirth or Braden Holtby, both of which have been letting in goals at a high rate for the lowly fourteenth place Capitals.
You can follow Sean on Twitter — @HartnettHockey.