Which Scotty Will it Be?
Since the 07-08 season, the Philadelphia Flyers have been a team that prides themselves on their offensive depth. Having so many 20 goal scorers certainly has been a bragging point.
Scotty Hartnell has passed the 20 goal mark three times since 07-08. This season marks his fifth 20+ goal season in the NHL. But the reality is that there is more than one Scotty Hartnell, and no one knows which one we will see next week and hopefully into June.
Last season was Hartnell's first season since the lockout in which he scored less than twenty goals. That season should have an imaginary asterisk next to it. Everyone knows what a tough year personally it was for Hartnell, and when personal baggage is brought to the rink, it will only lead to on ice struggles.
A switch seemed to turn on last Spring when Hartnell was paired up with Danny Briere and Ville Leino. The old Hartnell returned. In the six games of the Stanley Cup Final, Hartnell recorded 8 of his 17 playoff points.
The Hartnell, Briere, and Leino line has been reunited multiple times this season and will likely be held together when the playoffs begin next week.
This season has not exactly been a cake walk for Hartnell. If you have a twitter account, you are probably familiar with the #HartnellDown hash-tag made famous by @SethDH and @DownGoesSpezza. The two of them have been keeping a tally of how many times Scotty has fallen this season. The number currently sits at 231. It is rather humorous and entertaining to see, but at the same time, it is concerning.
When Hartnell struggles, boy does he struggle. It is so evident. You'll see it in his body language on the ice and on the bench. The stick slams are there as are the head shakes. His frustration gets to him and suddenly he's either invisible and eventually benched or getting noticed for all the wrong reasons.
There is one team that always brings out the best in Scott Hartnell, and that team is the Pittsburgh Penguins. Hartnell is without a doubt the most hated Flyer in western Pennsylvania and that may be perfect motivation for him. He simply plays like the pest that he is against Pittsburgh, and that's what makes him so affective.
Part of being a pest involves playing in font of the opposing goatender. When Mike Knuble was signed by Washington, the worry was who would replace him as the guy in front of the net always on the door step for a dirty goal. Many people expected Scotty Hartnell to take over that roll. No one has the magic touch that Knuble does, but Hartnell is more than capable of playing similarly. If Scotty can be that presence in front of the net, he will have more offensive success.
It may seem as if the answer to the question in the title has been danced around completely. The main point is that Hartnell has the skills to be the 20 goal scorer that he is. He has the talent to be one of the best playoff performers for this team. And he has the grit to crash the net more often and get some garbage goals, but it is entirely up to him if that is the Hartnell that will show up.
Hartnell is without a doubt his own worst enemy. He is so quick to become angry when things are not going right, and he'll also take some undisciplined penalties along the way which is probably his biggest downside.
But there is no reason to believe that it will not be the aforementioned productive Hartnell rather than the latter mentioned frustrated one come next week and on.
Hartnell is one of the most loved players by his teammates. He is great for laughs and keeping everyone loose. The Flyers value Hartnell for more than his points. He is a key component to breaking out of this horrible slump and at long last coming together as a team.
The two attributes Hartnell has go hand in hand. The looser he stays and the less tense he gets, the better he will perform. And the better he performs, the easier it will be for him to have fun and enjoy this run with his teammates.
It is up in the air which Hartnell will show up, but if the Flyers are going to have post season success, a productive Hartnell would not go under-appreciated.