When he is on his game, Carl Hagelin uses his vaunted speed to pass opposing defenders in a blur. The problem for the 24-year-old Rangers left wing has been that his offensive contributions also have been streaky.
Hagelin was the fastest skater in the NHL's All-Star rookie competition last season, and finished sixth among freshmen in points, going 14-24-38 in 64 games. This season, Hagelin had a slow start, with no points in seven games, and then a torrid stretch Feb. 10-19, with five goals and three assists in five games.
In that span, Hagelin had a goal and two assists in the first two games against the Islanders, whom the Rangers face tomorrow night at the Coliseum, and used his speed effectively, causing havoc on the forecheck and making defenses back off the rush. He also recorded an assist in the third game against the Islanders on March 7.
But the Swedish youngster tailed off. By the last week of March, part of a 10-game stretch with one assist and only 14 shots on goal, his minutes were increasingly limited by coach John Tortorella, dropping from 18:52 on March 26 to a season-low 10:55 on April 1 against Winnipeg. The next day, he was the only player not on ice for practice; the team called it a "maintenance" day. Hagelin told reporters he just needed to rest and regroup.
After all, the Blueshirts needed him; they were 10-2-1 when he posted a point this season, and 6-1-1 when he scored.
Asked then what he'd seen from Hagelin, Tortorella said: "Not a whole bunch. He's been, for a lot of the year, a really good player. He has struggled a bit, but I believe he'll bounce back. He's a guy full of energy, and I think if he just stays with his energy, he'll get himself out of this little bit of a jam."
Hagelin was skating with Derek Stepan and Rick Nash, but after the trade deadline passed, he was paired with center Derick Brassard and Brian Boyle, and on Wednesday against Toronto recorded his first multi-point game since March 10, when he had two assists against the Capitals. His ninth goal, on a rebound, tied the game in the second, and the assist came less than six minutes later.
Asked afterward if he had his legs back, Hagelin said: "I hope so; it's one of those games where I got to pucks and was good on the forecheck, that's when you get those lucky bounces."
Maybe that's the first sign of another streak.