Everyone in NYR Nation must be feeling pretty good this morning.
The Blueshirts took down the defending Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks last night, 3-2, in their building. Was it the team's most complete win of the season? Not by a long shot, considering the dreadful middle period played. But it was arguably the team's best, one that can springboard a team.
Did you also see who potted the game-winner? That would recently named Olympian Carl Hagelin. The nail in the coffin goal last night was Hagelin's 11th of the season, putting the Swede in a tie for the team lead with Mats Zuccarello and Brad Richards. Hags is on pace for 23 goals, which would shatter his career high of 14 set during the 2011-12 season (his rookie campaign). Not to be forgotten, Hagelin also leads New York with four game-winning goals.
So why am I blowing smoke at you with gushing praise about Carl Hagelin today? Because, it looks to me he's finally figured out the offensive part of his game. And I've been somewhat of a detractor of his.
When Hagelin arrived into the NHL, the book on him was being a super fast, pesky checking winger. And that has rung true for the most part. The biggest disappointment in his game through two and a half seasons has been finishing. Hagelin is the team's best puck possession forward while being adept at making plays down low and along the boards off that. It's just been a matter of burying chances.
Last year, we saw signs of Hagelin developing more finish to his game when he completed the lockout-shortened season with 10 goals in 48 games (a pace that would've put him near 20 goals over a typical 82-game season). Enter this season at the halfway mark, and the 25-year-old winger looks to have turned an offensive corner.
I'm guilty of labeling Hagelin as a 'super third-liner,' a player who add offense occasionally while being one of the team's best defensive forwards. But, maybe that's not what Hagelin is. His development over the course of the last calendar year says otherwise even with an offseason shoulder surgery that didn't allow for a proper training camp.
The biggest key for the Rangers to be successful is having their top guys be, essentially, top guys. Has Carl Hagelin evolved into a top player for this team? He's a vital piece to the puzzle. Developing into a consistent offensive threat will change that label.
Thanks for reading! Follow on Twitter @TheWrage. E-mail: Jwrabel9@hotmail.com