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October 05, 2018

Defenseman Robert 'The Hammer' Hagg shows a golden scoring touch for Flyers

“Scoring machine” Robert Hagg. 

The Flyers’ second-year defenseman wore a whimsical look at the thought. Still basking in the Flyers’ surprising 5-2 season-opening upset over the Stanley Cup finalist Vegas Golden Knights Thursday night in the raucous T-Mobile Arena, Hagg did something he never achieved in an NHL game before — and did something else that took 34 games to reach last year.

Hagg had his first two-point NHL game, with a goal and an assist during the Flyers’ five-goal, unanswered streak that broke the game open and placed the Flyers in command.

It took Hagg 34 games to score his first goal last season and 15 games to reach his second point. The 6-foot-2, 205-pound defenseman knows scoring isn’t a part of his game. But slamming a goal home here and there and adding a little offense can be a bonus for the Flyers this season.

“I guess I was lucky, being at the right spot at the right time tonight,” said Hagg, whose assist led to Wayne Simmonds’ first goal and whose second-period goal gave the Flyers a 4-1 lead. “I want to improve all of the time, and I mean in all areas of my game.

“I don’t want to be that guy who shoves the puck away as soon as I get it. I want to improve my overall game, with or without the puck. I want to grow as a player with the puck, because without the puck, I think I’m pretty decent. You always want to get better every single day and that’s what I’m committed to doing.”

Hagg admitted that working on his stick handling and his shot was part of his off-season. He even had a dazzling move on Flyers’ goalie prospect Carter Hart during training camp, so squeezing a little offense can be something Hagg appears able to supply now and then.

But, Hagg is sure to point out, he’s not a sniper by any means.

“No, no, no, that’s not me,” Hagg said, laughing. “I put one in tonight and I scored two points, so I guess there is a first time for everything. But to be that honest, I don’t think I played that well. When I look over the way I played, I was a little bit off in that first period. 

“It was their home opener. They were all charged up and we knew they would be. I didn’t win my battles, especially in front of the net. That’s my game, that’s the stuff that I want to be better doing. I don’t think I had that in the beginning of the game. We knew that they were going to come hard in the beginning. 

“It was an amazing first 10 minutes, with the crowd and everything. But you can’t ask for anything better than how we responded. We knew that it was important to keep the score down and after the first 10 minutes, we took over the game more and more — and controlled it."

Hagg did not rule something out in the future. If a rolling puck comes his way, he’s going shoot it.

“Well, I found out it’s not impossible to score goals, even for me,” Hagg said, laughing again. “When you see the puck go in, you begin to play with a little more confidence.”

Hagg finished plus-2, logging 16:34 of ice time. It was a typical Hagg performance.

“It was a heck of a night for Bob,” Flyers’ coach Dave Hakstol said about Hagg. “He played his game, which is defense first, heavy, physical game, with shot blocks and he came up with a goal and an assist. He battled hard through the preseason and he’s continually raised his level.

“He picked up where he left off, with a good, solid outing. He’s smart player, he makes the first pass and then he supports the play, then joins the play. That’s how he scored tonight.”

Hagg played a big role in shutting up the T-Mobile Arena, which was rocking with all of the pregame hoopla celebrating last year’s success. 

But a three-goal second period staunched that and led to Golden Knights’ coach pulling Marc-Andre Fleury, who led the Knights to the Stanley Cup Finals, with 10:11 left in the second after giving up five goals on 16 shots. The Flyers killed all three Knight power plays, and though a small sample size, an encouraging point, considering the Flyers were 29th against the power play last season.

Simmonds finished with two goals, with one goal each from Oskar Lindblom, Scott Laughton and that new scoring machine, Robert Hagg.

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