A short time after he was traded to the Washington Capitals on Feb. 23, Carl Hagelin came to a shocking realization.
They’re not the jerks he thought they were all those years.
Playing against the Capitals in high-pressure, high-intensity games for the better part of three seasons while with the Pittsburgh Penguins made Hagelin assume their locker room was filled with bad guys. It’s not.
“There’s a lot of good guys in the room,” Hagelin said. “Before, you obviously hated every single player on this team. You said some things to them and they said some things to you throughout the year. That’s thrown out of the window and you’re good friends with them now.”
The fit on the ice has been as good as the fit in the locker room for Hagelin since joining the Capitals.
He’s got two goals in eight games for Washington, already surpassing his total of one in 16 games with the Penguins to start the season and one in 22 games with the Los Angeles Kings in between.
Since trading for Hagelin, the Capitals have an 88 percent success rate on the penalty kill. Before he arrived, it was 78.6 percent.
“It’s been good,” Hagelin said. “I got thrown in the heat right away. First games, I was playing PK right away and getting some good minutes five on five. It’s a team with a lot of skill, but also some toughness to it, some big dudes.”
While Tuesday’s game was his first visit to PPG Paints Arena since the Penguins traded him away in November, it wasn’t Hagelin’s first meeting with his old team. That came at Staples Center when the Kings played the Penguins on Jan. 12.
Patric Hornqvist missed that game with an injury, however, so he was facing Hagelin, a close friend, for the first time since the trade.
Before the game, he echoed a sentiment often shared by players in that position.
“He’ll be a good friend for the rest of my life, but 7 o’clock tonight, we’re not friends,” Hornqvist said.
Hagelin said the chance to catch up with the Hornqvist family on Monday was a highlight of his trip back to town.
“That was great,” Hagelin said. “We lived next door for three years, spent a lot of time with his family. It’s good to see him and his wife and his two daughters. That’s the one thing in this sport. You create a lot of good friendships and he’s definitely one of them.”