Two goals, five assists. That’s all. Those numbers belong to Carl Hagelin, who is on pace for the worst offensive season of his six-year career. His play has never resulted in a voluptuous stat line, but only two goals?
You may associate those numbers with Craig Adams in 2011, not a player like Hagelin with a $4 million cap hit.
In consecutive years with the New York Rangers, Hagelin buried 17 goals before his relatively lifeless stint as an Anaheim Duck. Otherwise, Hagelin has not scored 15 goals in a season nor 40 points.
These Pittsburgh Penguins have been under a microscope for an abundance of reasons, including the lack of offensive production from role players.
On Sunday evening, head coach Mike Sullivan inserted Hagelin onto the second line with Evgeni Malkin and Phil Kessel, which drove fans to the Twittersphere. It wasn’t pretty.
Defensively, Hagelin is superb. Despite being a -6, his defensive play has been essential for a team which has given up the seventh most goals in the NHL and has a -12 goal differential.
Despite some early season blowouts and faltering penalty killing, the Penguins defensive statistics have rebounded. In fact, the Penguins PK unit, which recently ranked near the bottom is now in the top 10, at 82.6%. In fact, the Penguins have killed penalties above 91% since Thanksgiving.
Hagelin has been a staple of that unit. You can make an argument that Hagelin is the best penalty killer for a good PK unit that has the 10th best rating in the NHL.
Physical Carl Hagelin
Hagelin also ranks fifth in hits (63). The Penguins amped physicality this season with the acquisition of Ryan Reaves in June. Not coincidentally, Hagelin is on pace for well over 100 hits, which would crush a career-high.
On offense, his productivity does not always show up on the left-hand side of the stat sheet, and Hagelin’s offensive contributions have always stemmed from his speed even while playing on a broken leg that “wasn’t fully healed.” For example, he didn’t receive a point on this Riley Sheahan goal, but he undoubtedly made the play:
That speed visibly effects the forecheck, which of course, can turn into assisting the team offensively. Watch the secondary assist from Sunday night on the Jamie Oleksiak goal in the 1st period. Hagelin’s speed allows him to jump forward on the wall:
This is what Hagelin does, but the result may not be an assist or goal. Above, his speed gives him the ability to make a play near the half wall and dish the puck to the point. Hunwick makes an easy pass to Oleksiak for the goal. The subtle seal off from Hagelin drew two defenders, leaving most of Boston’s unit out of position.
Despite the low assist total, Hagelin makes these ‘hustle’ plays almost every game. Although not often enough he one of the last three players to touch the puck.
One final thought in the defense of the most perplexing Penguin: with a week of rest about to be in the rear-view mirror for this squad, watch to see how many icing calls Hagelin negates this weekend.
Hagelin does not take shifts off. The Swedish motors are always running for the Penguins. The effort is there, and Hagelin should be rewarded for it in the second half.