Can Scott Hartnell Score 40 Goals?
It’s unquestionably been the best season of his career.
Philadelphia Flyers forward Scott Hartnell is on pace to eclipse every career-high he’s ever achieved in his 11 NHL seasons.
Considering it’s only halfway through the season, questions are starting to arise about his possible end of season goal total.
Through 48 games he already has 25 goals, which is more than he has ever scored in a single season with the exception of 2008-09 when he scored 30.
With it all but a formality that Hartnell will hit 30, the debate turns to a new challenge:
Can he score 40?
To this point, he’s averaging a goal every two games (1.92). With 34 games left in the season, he’s going to have to keep up that average of one goal every two games (2.26) to hit the mark.
To put it simply, he needs to score 15 goals in 34 games.
When analyzing the final 34 games of every season he’s played, Hartnell has never scored 15 goals in the back end of any season. That doesn’t mean he hasn’t gotten close (omitted from the chart is his 08-09 performance when he scored 12 goals in his final 34; it's his career best in that span).
If Hartnell is going to score 40, the most important thing that will impact his chances will be just that, his chances.
When looking at how he scored his 25 goals thus far, it’s evident that he’s generating a lot of chances around the net.
As you will see in the chart below, the majority of his goals are coming in a tight cluster around the front of the goalmouth. Whether it’s high or low, he is most dangerous as a goal scorer when he is able to battle for position in the slot.
While some have questioned whether teams will start focusing on Hartnell and making it more difficult for him to gain open space in front, it’s not a simple task to defend him.
Even dating back to earlier this season, Hartnell has continually moved his feet. He rarely camps around the net; instead he continues to move with the play in order to put himself into proper position to work off his teammates.
While the majority of his goals have been dirty, his skating and his ability to get off quick shots in tight windows is probably the biggest reason he is scoring. Of course, playing with Claude Giroux and Jaromir Jagr is helps.
Teams may be more aware of his presence and they may try to cover him more closely, but the Flyers have the tendency to rotate the zone so rapidly that if teams do start to single Hartnell out, they are going to leave Giroux and Jagr open shots.
It’s also important to remember that 13 of his goals have come on the power play. With Wayne Simmonds creating distractions in front of the net, it will leave Hartnell space to move in and out of the slot.
Ultimately, it’s going to leave teams with a difficult dilemma no matter the scenario.
While he largely needs his line mates to get him the puck, it can’t be overlooked how good Hartnell is at getting off quick shots. It’s a unique characteristic that has allowed him to thrive.
As long as Hartnell continues to follow plays, move his feet and utilize his instincts on positioning, he will continue to find success.
It’s impossible to say whether he will reach 40, but what is clear is that if Hartnell is ever going to reach the plateau, this is the season he will do it.
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