NEW YORK --Robert Hagg doesn’t mind doing the unglamorous parts of the game. In fact he thrives on them.
The defenseman entered Sunday’s game at Madison Square Garden against the New York Rangers first on the Flyers and seventh in the NHL with 108 hits and second on the team with 59 blocked shots.
In Saturday’s 4-3 loss to Columbus, he had a season-high eight hits, one shy of his career high. In the game before, a 2-1 win over Nashville, Hagg tied his season high with five blocked shots. He also has three goals, matching his total last season in 70 games.
Blocking shots could be one of the toughest and most important parts of the game.
“It is pretty fun when you are playing at home and blocking shots, you can hear the bench screaming and hear everybody in the arena screaming, and that is fun,” the 6-foot-4, 204-pound Hagg said before Sunday’s game. “That is something that has to be done every single game, and it is a big part of my job.”
Now in his second season, the 23-year-old Hagg said he was playing with more confidence this season. He entered Sunday tied for second on the team with a plus-7 rating.
“Last year as a rookie, everything was new and I am feeling more comfortable this year,” said Hagg, a second-round draft choice in 2013.
Comfortable, but not complacent.
“I am a little more comfortable now, but at the same time, I have to always show myself to be a better player each game," he said.
After 20-year-old Carter Hart made three straight starts since his call-up from the Phantoms, including Saturday against Columbus, the Flyers started Michal Neuvirth in goal against the Rangers.
Interim coach Scott Gordon said he considered using Hart, especially with the Flyers beginning the NHL’s three-day Christmas break on Monday before returning to action Thursday at Tampa Bay.
“The big thing is he played three games in five days, and beyond that he played last Friday and Saturday [with the Phantoms]. You are looking at [five] games in nine days,” Gordon said. “I thought about it.”
Hart has a 2.36 goals against average and a .904 save percentage in his first three games with the Flyers.