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Hartnett: Spark Plug Carl Hagelin Igniting Rangers' Upturn

'Rangers Inside And Out'
By Sean Hartnett
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Shortly into his second season with the New York Rangers, 24-year-old left winger Carl Hagelin is proving he's a crucial member of a team that's beginning to turn the corner.

Hagelin's wholehearted play has ignited the Rangers like a spark plug jump-starting a sports car that ran low on battery.  A few weeks back, the Rangers looked as lifeless as a Ferrari that had run out of juice on the side of the highway.  One-sided losses to the divisional rival Pittsburgh Penguins and New Jersey Devils had many Rangers fans perplexed as January turned to February.

Since February 10, Hagelin has been firing on all cylinders and breathing life into the Rangers who are 4-0-1 in their last five games.  From the drop of the puck to the final buzzer, Hagelin's legs are constantly churning.

His speed, awareness and positioning have resulted in a four-game point streak where he's collected five goals, two assists and seven points over the stretch.  In Sunday's game where goals were very hard to come by, it was Hagelin who finally got the Rangers on the board.

"He's probably been our best forward at just creating offense," Rangers head coach John Tortorella said of Hagelin on Sunday night.  "He's had the most energy.  For him his skates are on top of the ice, he's just that fast.  He's a big player for us.  He creates a lot of havoc and ends up with a lot of puck control."

The Rangers battered Washington Capitals' goalie Braden Holtby with 29 shots near the midway point of the second period.  Amazingly, Hotlby was able to withstand the pressure until Hagelin's alertly cut to the side of the net left open by Holtby and tipped-in Ryan McDonagh's effort from the point.

Again, it was Hagelin who provided the initial spark as the Blueshirts went on to defeat the Capitals 2-1 on Sunday.  A perfectly-executed power play goal where Brad Richards sent a crisp past to Michael Del Zotto, who then set up Derek Stepan gave the Rangers a lead they did not relinquish.

To judge Hagelin purely by point totals would be overlooking what he brings as an entire package every game.  He's become a very dogged player on the fore check and equally committed to back checking.

"He's a really dynamic player because his speed and ability to put the puck in the net," teammate Dan Girardi said after Sunday's victory.  "His defending this year is amazing, that's why he's getting chances up the other way."

Del Zotto views Hagelin as a difference-maker every time he takes the ice.

"His speed is so elite.  When he's moving his feet, he causes turnovers," the Rangers' defenseman explained.  "He's great on the fore check.  It's his speed every night that makes a difference.  He doesn't have to make the prettiest play. His speed is a huge talent for this hockey club and with the guys he's play with, it's a dangerous line."

Rick Nash is just getting his feet wet as a Ranger, but he's already appreciating Hagelin's gifts.

"When he uses his speed, it's a huge advantage for him," Nash said. "He understands that's definitely his sharpest tool. He can out-skate anyone so it's easy for me and Stepan to find him. With so much speed and him going to the net, he's a hard guy to stop."

After the game, Hagelin met up with Dutch house DJ Tiësto, who was wearing a No. 62 to Rangers jersey.  Away from the ice, Hagelin is known to be an avid fan of Tiësto and Swedish House Mafia.

Whether or not you're a fan of house/progressive trance, it's hard not to find this kind of music exciting.  It's 'get off your seat' kind of stuff.  The same can be said about Hagelin, whose exciting and electrifying play frequently brings Rangers fans off their seats at Madison Square Garden.

How big of a difference-maker is Hagelin for the Rangers?  Share your thoughts below and send your tweets to @HartnettHockey.

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