Hartnell Gets Benched; Predestined?
If a player's offensive production includes two goals and three assists in 14 games, it's easily assumed that is the stat line of a fourth line forward.
For the Flyers, it was top-liner Scott Hartnell.
The struggles continued for Hartnell, who found himself demoted in the third period of a frustrating 4-2 loss to Tampa Bay on Monday. It's safe to say the demotion was a long time coming for Hartnell, who hasn't been the same player that led the Flyers with 37 goals.
The demotion started early into the second period. Hartnell was called for a roughing minor on Cory Conacher and was demoted to the fourth line until about eight minutes left in the game.
Zac Rinaldo replaced Hartnell on the top line during the duration. Head coach Peter Laviolette told media he was not trying to send a message to Hartnell with the demotion.
“We’ve got to play a clean game, and it seems like we do things and shoot ourselves in the foot” Laviolette said.
Hartnell played only 13:19 of ice time while his normal line mates, Claude Giroux and Jakub Voracek played over 20 minutes. He was a -1 on the night.
Hartnell accepted the demotion though. He didn't regret the play leading up to his benching, backing up his own decision to be physical with Conacher in the second.
“If that’s the way it’s going to be, that’s the way it’s going to be,” Hartnell said. “I finished my check and hit him a couple extra times where I shouldn’t have, but the boys did a good job of killing it off. Is Lavy trying to send a message to me? He was trying to send it to the team, and it’s unfortunate we couldn’t come back tonight."
Rinaldo, who has been playing exceptionally well all season, benefited from the move though. He logged 10:02 in ice time, leading the team with four hits.
"Maybe some guys got a spark from it," Rinaldo said. "I was actually really surprised. Hopefully, I made an impact."
If Laviolette did indeed try to send a message it wouldn't have been the first time a player felt his wrath in the line up. Danny Briere, another struggling forward in the midst of a 13-game goal-less drought, had been knocked down to the third line a few times in the past couple weeks.
If the message does get through to the players, will it be enough to turn around their struggling season? The Flyers are 13-16-1, leaving them with just 18 games to try and sneak into the playoffs.
They will get the next five days off, but will be forced to sit at home while other teams ahead of them get the chance to expand on their leads in the standings.
"Obviously, you'd rather be playing games trying to make a difference in the standings," Laviolette said. "There's nothing we can do about that."