Flyers Find Spark with Hartnell, Jagr and Giroux
Despite an up-and-down end to October, the Philadelphia Flyers can take a huge positive into the month of November.
A bonafide first line has emerged.
Claude Giroux, Jaromir Jagr and Scott Hartnell have developed productive chemistry together. The trio has scored a combined total of 11 goals and 12 assists in only four games.
While the group has seen a lot of success, they formed under less-than-ideal circumstances.
After opening the season with a record of 4-0-1, the Flyers hosted the Washington Capitals in what many viewed as a 'statement game'. The Capitals came into Wells Fargo Center without a loss, which made it the perfect opportunity for the new look Flyers to display how far they could push themselves.
The team came up shockingly short.
Following the game, coach Peter Laviolette decided to drastically change the lines.
Hartnell started the season on the third line after an underwhelming preseason. After playing all of last season on the top-line, many speculated that the demotion was a strategic move by the organization to frustrate the player into waiving his no-trade clause.
Instead, Laviolette would move Hartnell to the first line to play with Giroux and Jagr, the team’s most cohesive pair.
Giroux and Jagr clicked almost instantaneously. During the preseason, Jagr scored a league-leading four goals with Giroux assisting on three. The players traded compliments through the media, leading many to believe that both were primed for memorable seasons.
Unfortunately, Jagr stumbled out of the gate.
Through six games he had registered four assists but had yet to find the back of the net. It left many wondering whether his early success was merely a fluke or the result of playing against poor competition.
With Giroux scoring five goals in the team’s first six games, it became evident that it was crucial to give the forward ample support. Rather than give up on the two stars, Laviolette opted to experiment with Hartnell to see if a physical body could help complete the line.
He could not have imagined how successful the move would be.
Since Hartnell joined the line, Jagr has scored five goals and registered two assists, including two separate games where he scored two goals.
Hartnell has also benefitted from the skill of his new linemates.
Prior to teaming up with Giroux and Jagr, Hartnell had only recorded two assists through six games. Since joining the stars, he has scored an unbelievable four goals and five assists, moving him to third on the team in total points.
Hartnell is well aware of the luxury he is afforded.
“Playing with two superstars like that is very nice for me,” he said. “We complement each other well, we’re having fun and scoring some goals.”
It’s obvious that Hartnell’s abilities aren’t based on the beautiful dynamics of the game. And with Giroux and Jagr based so much in skill, it was commonly wondered whether or not Hartnell would be able to keep up.
Jagr doesn’t believe it’s an issue worth worrying about.
“He’s playing a different game than we do, but you need that guy in that line because he’s going to the net,” the veteran said. “You need the three guys to mix together and everybody brings something special.”
Hartnell is on the same page.
“My game is simple. It’s straight lines, getting on the body and going to the front of the net,” the forward said. “They do enough fancy stuff for all of us. I just keep doing what I do.”
While the first line is excelling, there is a shadow of doubt being cast over the other lines. Giroux, Hartnell and Jagr have composed 55% of the team’s offense over the last five games.
The large impact has raised concerns about the other lines ability to produce.
But the success of the first line may actually benefit the other lines by limiting the possible combinations that Laviolette has to work with, freeing him to continue to experiment.
At least that’s what the coach hopes.
“Lines move all the time in hockey,” Laviolette said. “There’s lots of things I like and there’s certainly things we can do better…so we’ll continue to look at things until we find what we like.”