Hartnell finds success in the slot
It’s fair to say that this past weekend was probably the best weekend Scott Hartnell has had in a long time.
“Five goals in two games,” he said on Sunday. “It's a good weekend for anybody.”
On Saturday afternoon, he scored two goals against the New Jersey Devils. Both goals came on the power play, with the first being the eventual game-winner.
Then on Sunday, against the best defensive team in the league, the Boston Bruins, Hartnell scored a natural hat trick in the second period to give the Flyers a one goal lead after the team began the period down by two.
As if that wasn’t enough, he also had a chance to accomplish the feat in front of his dad because the Flyers had the player’s fathers flown in to watch the game.
"To see the smile on his face afterwards is special for me, obviously,” Hartnell said. “To have him here and have a good game personally is pretty nice."
There is no way around it; Hartnell is the hottest player on the Flyers right now.
He has scored seven goals in his last six games with six of the seven coming on the power play. In total, he leads the team in goals (25) and is second in total points (44).
When looking at this past weekend, Hartnell’s goals were similar. All five of the goals came in the high slot, in or around the left faceoff circle.
In fact, of his seven most recent goals all but one originated around the high slot near the left faceoff circle.
It may merely be coincidence, but when thinking back to last year Hartnell spent a lot of time battling directly in front of the crease.
As we all know, he doesn’t have the best balance in the league.
More often than not he ended up falling down, being knocked down or bumping into the goalie and being called for goaltender interference.
This season that hasn’t been happening.
Hartnell has been spending most of his time hovering in the slot and going into corners. When he does camp out in front of the net it is usually more as a decoy so that he can transition into the slot.
“You can look at his [goals], they are all dirty area goals,” Max Talbot said. “It’s not an easy area to get in. He fought his way there and […] he’s taking a fast check to shoot it.”
Moving forward, it will be important for Hartnell to continue to battle for position in the slot.
His presence helps distort the goaltender’s view and opens up shooting lanes at the point. This is important because the Flyers like to generate offense from the point.
By situating in the slot, he draws attention from defenders and opens up the option for deflections and tips.
Not to mention that it has clearly helped him pick up his production; he is currently six goals away from eclipsing his career high in goals scored (30).
Of course, there is still the issue of the NHL All-Star game and whether Hartnell will be invited to replace an injured player. His play warrants an invitation and he has expressed an interest in going.
Ultimately isn’t the first thing on his mind.
“It's alright that I don't get the accolades and all that kind of stuff,” Hartnell said earlier this week. “I'm a hard-working guy in a hard-working city. That's all I care about."
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