After the first nine games of the 2009-10 season, Flyers’ winger Scott Hartnell had become a target for finger pointers, who believed a better, more workman’s effort was needed from him if the team was going to be anything more than .500%. At the time, the Flyers stood 5-3-1 and Hartnell had just one goal and three assists to go along with his putrid minus-5.
But the sudden awakening of the curly-haired pest has sparked a fire under the Flyers’ offense, who despite missing two of their top scorers to injury, are now pumping on all cylinders, ranked second in the NHL at 3.57 goals per.
“If you go back to the San Jose loss (Oct. 25), we weren’t quite at the net the way we needed to be,” Flyers’ coach John Stevens told the media, “I actually sat down (Mike)Richards, Hartnell and Claude (Giroux) and talked about the line a little bit. Everybody brings something different to the line, but Hartnell is the net presence.”
In the last five games, in which the Flyers are 4-1, Hartnell has eight total points and four goals. And although the goals all came on the man advantage, which is tied for first in the NHL with 26.6%, all of Hartnell’s tallies have come in front or around the crease, finally filling the Flyers’ need for a net presence after the departure of Mike Knuble in the offseason.
Hartnell’s growing confidence is being displayed in his shot totals. In his first nine games of the season, he was credited 16 shots on goal. In his last five games, he has 18. It’s not a coincidence that during his hot streak, he has averaged two more shots per game.
Hartnell has also picked up the physical side of his game, which was lacking earlier in the year. The 6’2, 210 lbs., 27-year old is fourth on the Flyers in hits with 21, behind Ian Laperriere, Darroll Powe and Dan Carcillo.
When envisioning the Flyers’ most vital offensive players, Hartnell does not come immediately to mind. But don’t short change the goofy power forward, for having a productive Hartnell may be the single most important characteristic of the Flyers’ latest hot streak.