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Film Study: Robert Hagg shows his strengths and weaknesses in Game 3 win

Robert Hagg returned to the lineup and did his thing in the Game 3 win.

Philadelphia Flyers v Montreal Canadiens - Game Three Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

The Philadelphia Flyers got back to their winning ways with a 1-0 shutout victory in Game 3 against the Montreal Canadiens. Carter Hart was fantastic in net, earning his first playoff shutout, but the defense in front of him was pretty good as well.

After the Flyers’ defensive struggles in Game 2, Alain Vigneault elected to make some changes. Up front, Michael Raffl replaced Joel Farabee, and he made a change on defense as well. Robert Hagg returned to the lineup for the first time since the Flyers’ win against the Washington Capitals in their second round-robin game.

Hagg was replaced by Shayne Gostisbehere in the lineup for the Flyers’ final round-robin game and it stayed that way until Game 3 on Sunday night. The Flyers’ defensive breakdowns in Game 1 and more so Game 2 led to Hagg rejoining the lineup to provide physicality on the blue line.

Hagg played 11:10 at 5-on-5 in the game and ended up in the middle of the pack when it comes to underlying stats. He was on the ice for eight shot attempts for and 12 against (40% Corsi-For), but three shots on goal for and just one against. The Canadiens did have an advantage in scoring chances 5-4, however, with each team getting two high-danger chances. All of that turned into an Expected Goals-For Percentage of 50.07%, just shy of the Flyers’ 51.98% xGF on the game.

Let’s break it all down.

Hagg’s first notable shift was a good one. Well, mostly.

He rubbed out Brendan Gallagher along the wall, allowing the Flyers to have numbers and win the battle in the corner.

Taking out Gallagher along the wall was a good play, but his gap control at the blue line allowed the Canadiens to enter the zone a bit too easily. Hagg then got to the loose puck in the near corner and tried to get the puck out of the zone. His clear was knocked down, but luckily Tyler Pitlick and Nate Thompson were there to help out.

He then ended the shift with another solid defensive play, possibly getting away with a slash, and Michael Raffl sent the Flyers the other way.

A decent shift for Hagg to start things off. He then helped the Flyers get on the board. He took the puck off the draw, got it down to Claude Giroux on a set play, and the puck bounced off Jakub Voracek and in for an early 1-0 lead.

Nothing spectacular, but Hagg did his job and was rewarded with an assist. He got that assist and was looking for more. He pinched up the wall on his next shift and took out his man, but unfortunately he didn’t have any teammates there to pick up the puck.

He slapped the puck around the boards off a defensive zone faceoff at the start of his next shift, which helped start a rush and Nate Thompson drew a penalty.

Hagg had an up-and-down shift to end his first period. After a blocked shot up high, the defenseman was caught chasing his man in the corner.

That allowed the Canadiens to cycle a bit and almost get a high-quality chance off. However, Hagg recovered with a stick lift to take away a potential backdoor pass, though it looked more like he was going to continue skating anyway.

That was the up, and its the upside of his game. Next came the down. Raffl threw a reverse check, freeing the puck up for Hagg with some time and space. Not a lot, but some. Instead of surveying options or simply getting the puck out of the zone, his weak chip was caught and the Canadiens continued in the Flyers’ zone.

Montreal didn’t get a scoring chance off of that, but that zone time adds up and it’s time that the Flyers should be able to use to attack rather than defend.

It wouldn’t be a Robert Hagg game without some post-whistle physicality.

That was it for Hagg’s first period. He played 3:17 – all at even strength – over the course of seven shifts in the first period. It was the least amount of ice time among Flyers defensemen in the first.

Hagg’s lack of speed worked against him a bit early in the second period. He was forced to backhand the puck up the wall with a Canadiens forward on him, with Braun also taking some blame – possibly more of the blame – as he couldn’t get to the puck first.

The Flyers did clear the zone, but then Hagg tried to pinch up in the neutral zone. That pinch, combined with some poor positioning by the third line, led to a shot with a forward alone in front for Montreal.

Hart gobbled it up, as he did with every shot he faced, and the Flyers reset with a faceoff. Hagg had a one-on-one situation at the blue line and poked the puck out to center, but the Canadiens regained possession and entered the zone. Hagg dropped back in coverage and directed traffic.

It was a tough shift all around for the Flyers.

Hagg used his physicality – along with Philippe Myers’ – to tie up the Canadiens at the side of the net with Sean Couturier taking control of the puck.

Unfortunately, Couturier’s clearing attempt failed and Montreal kept the pressure on.

With the puck going behind the net, Hagg used his physical play in front of the net to negate his man, helping the Flyers work the puck up the wall and eventually out of the zone.

There’s no doubt that Hagg is a good physical defenseman. He is known for his hits and can take the opposition out of the play. His next shift came on the penalty kill. He used his stick to break up a pass into the slot, but the Canadiens maintained possession.

He then went down to block a shot – another one of his fortes – and finished a check along the end boards.

Then, after a blocked pass by Scott Laughton, Hagg found the loose puck and cleared the zone.

It was a pretty good penalty killing shift for Hagg in his return to the lineup. He flipped the switch from defense to offense on his next shift with a controlled zone entry(!!!) that led to a scoring chance in front for the top line.

On the ensuing faceoff, Hagg played catch with Braun and fired a shot on net that was tipped wide.

He then pinched down the wall and lost his stick, but luckily the Canadiens had nothing going and the Flyers were able to regain possession after the transition.

Hagg continued his strong play on the penalty kill by freeing the puck up along the wall for Thompson to clear.

On his next shift, Hagg played a rush well and got some help from his friends to clear the zone.

He was out there directing traffic as well.

Hagg jumped into the play immediately during his next shift and fired a shot on net that Carey Price had trouble with.

It was a good read to find the soft coverage down low, but the shot just couldn’t go. He then made a strong play in the defensive zone by blocking a shot then completely tying up Tomas Tatar along the wall, allowing the Flyers to head up ice.

Hagg had a pretty good second period overall. He nearly doubled his ice time from the first period with 6:13 – 4:29 at even strength, 1:44 on the penalty kill. His third period wasn’t as great.

Hagg had a rough shift to start the third period. With one forechecker on him and two passing options, his pass to Braun missed the mark. The Canadiens sent the puck back in deep.

The Flyers seemed to have the numbers down low again, but Hagg’s decision to chip it along the wall was a poor one as Montreal took over and got a few shot attempts off.

When a defenseman has the puck behind the net in this situation it shouldn’t lead to 20 seconds of offensive zone time for the opposition.

He then made another poor decision with the puck on the same shift. With not much pressure on him, he tried to send the puck in deep using Raffl as a deflection. The only problem was that Raffl was on the wrong side of the red line.

He made up for it a bit with a shot block and play along the end boards off the faceoff. But that faceoff never should have happened in the first place.

After tying up his man behind the net, his chip up the wall turned into a turnover and the Flyers only got relief when the puck went out of play.

Hagg made a solid play midway through the period along the goal line to intercept a pass and chip it to where the Flyers had a numbers advantage.

The Flyers won the battle and got the puck out of the zone. Later in the period, Hagg made a smart decision to let the puck go up the wall to Laughton, but the Habs sent it back in. Hagg was there again and this time cleared the zone.

On his final shift of the game, Hagg stayed with his man after pinching in the neutral zone. He took away an option and the Flyers were able to clear the zone.

That was it for Robert Hagg in Game 3. He played 3:24 in the third period – all at even strength – to bring his game total to 12:54 – 11:10 at even strength and 1:44 on the penalty kill. He finished with an assist, one shot on goal, three hits, and three blocked shots in the game.

Hagg playing just 3:24 in the third period could be worth reading into, however. His ice time was limited with a one-goal lead and he didn’t play in the final 3:20 of the game. One of the knocks on Gostisbehere is that he can’t be trusted late with a lead, but neither was Hagg in Game 3.

Gostisbehere brings an aggressive game with more offensive upside and has the speed needed to keep up with Montreal in transition. Ghost and Hagg are at opposite ends of the defenseman spectrum. Gostisbehere is fast, good with the puck on his stick (usually), and can provide an offensive spark, but his size leaves some holes in his defensive game at times. Hagg, on the other hand, is a big, physical defenseman that can block shots and make hits, but isn’t as great with the puck on his stick and doesn’t bring much offensively.

All that matters is that the Flyers won Game 3 and have a 2-1 series lead heading into Game 4. Vigneault will utilize more than just 12 forwards and six defensemen in the playoffs, as we’ve seen, and it’s a good problem to have more than enough players deserving of a spot in the lineup. With Games 4 and 5 being on back-to-back days, we might see both Gostisbehere and Hagg in the lineup this week.

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