The Flyers may have the perfect defensive pairing for years to come

Robert Hagg, Brian Elliott, Tom Wilson
Washington Capitals’ Tom Wilson, left, tries to shoot from behind the goal on Philadelphia Flyers’ Brian Elliott, right, as Robert Hagg, center, defending during the first period of an NHL hockey game, Saturday, Oct. 14, 2017, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Chris Szagola)

The Flyers have had an interesting start to the new NHL season and one that has been fueled by players of the future. The Flyers stunning 8-2 win over Washington saw the team issue a strong statement.  But while the offense shined, there was a pleasant and very overlooked surprise on Defense. Fitting, considering the player it involves.

As Shayne Gostisbehere recorded his third career three-assist game, his linemate played quietly and efficiently bringing an even balance to the line. That man is rookie Robert Hagg. After waiting for his opportunity since being drafted by the Flyers five years ago, the 22-year old’s impact this season has already been felt. Through five games, Hagg sits at a +2 rating…a testament to his quiet yet composed mentality.

After running with Shayne Gostisbehere throughout training camp, Hagg solidified his place on the Flyers roster. While Samuel Morin was shockingly sent back to Lehigh Valley, Hagg clung onto one of the last spots and has blossomed ever since. He may not have the 6’7 size of Morin, the electricity and two-way efficiency of Gostisbehere, or that ruthless streak personified by Radko Gudas, but Hagg has a calmness about him that has helped propel the back-end of the Flyers forward since his arrival.

“Well they have been a good pair since they have been together and obviously again, we have a pretty short sample here, you know Hagger is a very quiet, very solemn player and that is not just without the puck, he is real sound with it as well, he does positive things with it.” Hakstol told the media after the win. “As a defenseman, your main role is defend and move the puck out of the zone and do it efficiently and Hagger does a good job of that and Ghost is competing extremely hard without the puck and you know I don’t have to go there in terms of what he can do with the puck.”

Against the Capitals, Hagg saw a total of 21 minutes on ice, tying the most of his career so far and his highest single game total this season. The chemistry between the two blue-liners has flourished since camp. With the versatility of both enabling Ghost and Hang to switch places and control both flanks at a moments notice, the speed in which the team can now push through the middle is seeing an extra boost. The Capitals almost seemed too cautious at times, trying to account for two contrasting types of player who continued to present fresh challenges.

“That pair has a little bit of mojo, a little bit of chemistry now and bottom line they are just playing hard and they are playing hard together.” Said Dave Hakstol. He’s not wrong. For a young team to be able to develop such a strong bond so early in the season has to be applauded, and it’s something that will likely be a factor for years to come as the pair continue to develop.

Gostisbehere has already been on a tear this season and we don’t need to paint a picture of how dangerous he can be with the puck. With multi point games coming all too easy for the young blue-liner, having a rookie come in and learn from another talent on the rise can only mean good things for their growth. While Ghost’s energetic style of play stings defenses time and time again, wingers are met with a composed Hagg on the other end of the spectrum who will never go in too early for a hit, never be too aggressive with his stick, and never make risky moves with the puck. It’s that level-headedness that almost balances out the line and has helped the Flyers Defense find an even flow in their opening five games. The future is bright for the Flyers Offense, but their Defense has more than a few aces up their sleeve.

 

Mandatory Photo Credit: AP Photo/Chris Szagola

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