The New York Rangers will skate for game two of the Stanley Cup Finals against the Los Angeles Kings tonight in the City of Angels and in order to prevail they will need to do exactly that; skate. Which is why, to me, the most important player wearing a white sweater tonight will be Carl Hagelin.
Hagelin, is not a superstar, but he has the one thing that really kept the Rangers in game one, speed. The Rangers have a roster full of good skaters in their forward corps, with the likes of Rick Nash, Chris Krieder and Martin St. Louis in their ranks, but none with the all out speed of Hagelin, and it was apparent in game one that the Kings are not equipped to deal with it.
Hagelin must continue to apply pressure to the Kings blueliners, especially on the penalty kill, where he is lethal. If he gets a stride on any of the LA d-men in the neutral zone, it instantly becomes a quality scoring chance for the Rangers.
Championship teams always get key contributions in big spots to propel themselves to victory, tonight has to be Carl Hagelin’s night. Heck, game one was nearly Hagelin’s night, scoring a shorthanded goal in the first period, which was kicked in by a Kings defenseman after Jonathan Quick stopped Hagelin’s breakaway chance, and he was robbed by Quick again on a breakaway late in the third.
It seems like a lot to ask of a secondary player, but in a big spot, Hagelin has to bury both of those chances. He is going to get opportunities again tonight, it seems inevitable by the way that LA was unable to contain him in game one, but this time around he has to deliver.