With brush burns on the left side of his face, Scott Hartnell smiled. He didn’t really feel it. Some red marks are a small price to pay for breaking an 11-game win streak for the Pittsburgh Penguins, the team he thinks the Flyers will face first in the playoffs.
Hartnell’s last-second, game-winning goal meant that Ilya Bryzgalov didn’t have to face a shootout. The Flyers got two points and, thanks to Hartnell, the weekend saw the Flyers get three out of four points.
“He’s got a couple marks on his face,” Bryzgalov said. “I call him the chief right now.”
If Hartnell’s game is any indication, his teammates will be just fine with his bold playoff prediction. He’s clearly getting the better of the Penguins.
“We’re closer to getting home ice,” Hartnell said. “We play them twice more in Pittsburgh. It’s not gonna be easy.”
He scored his 34th and 35th goals of the year while also accumulating six penalty minutes. He got under Pittsburgh’s skin and that led to a few Flyers power plays.
“That’s his game,” Kimmo Timonen said. “When he plays like that, he’s in the game and obviously we get the energy from him and the way he plays. He’s been scoring some big goals for us the whole season pretty much. He’s one of those guys that as a defenseman it’s hard to play against him. He’s always there, yapping and punching and that kinda stuff. I’m really happy he’s on our team.”
Hartnell admits that this year didn’t start out so great. He came into training camp with an injury and began on the third line. Trade rumors swirled around the second most expensive forward on the roster. Since then, he’s exploded. He set a new career high for goals on Mar. 1 and has been piling it on ever since. Physical games, like the one against Pittsburgh, are where he shines.
“He got the other team rattled,” said Claude Giroux. “That’s what he does. He likes to get in guy’s face. His game’s not pretty, but it’s effective. I’m having a lot of fun playing with him and he finds a way to get the job done. He’s having a great year. “
The 29-year-old Saskatchewan native is looked to as one of the Flyers’ offensive leaders. He leads the team in goals by nine and is tied for third in the NHL heading into Sunday night. He’s been on the top line with Giroux and Jaromir Jagr for most of the season, but he’s brought more elements to the table than just putting the puck in the net.
“You don’t know what to expect,” Jagr said. “I’ve been playing with him for 60 games and I still don’t know what to expect from him.”
It seems safe to expect grit and toughness. Hartnell, and only two others on the roster, has played in every game this season. A few red marks on the face don’t bother him, but he’d like to make Pittsburgh look a little more black and blue. If his playoff prediction is right, the Penguins are in trouble.