Philadelphia Flyers forward Scott Hartnell
has nothing to hide when discussing his strategy prior to stepping on the ice each shift.
"That's because I've basically played the same way my whole career," Hartnell told NHL.com.
Sounds simple enough, but as linemate Daniel Briere
explains, Hartnell's game is all about passion and determination, qualities that have earned him the respect and admiration of his teammates.
"Sometimes I feel bad because me and Vinny (Prospal) get all the recognition for the way we've played since the trade deadline," Briere said. "But a lot of credit has to go to Scotty for getting our line to jell the way it has. He does a lot of the grunt work that a lot of people can't or don't want to do. He creates space for us and always finds his way to the front of the net, so we always know where to find him. He adds another dimension to our line, and without him, I know we wouldn't be as successful."
At 6-foot-2 and 210 pounds, Hartnell's game is predicated on strength and movement. He begins with a strong forecheck with the hope of generating turnovers. Opening space for his linemates while creating chaos in front of the opposing net also are high on his priority list.
"It's pretty simple, actually," Hartnell said. "Getting those loose pucks for Danny and Vinny are important since they are such great puck handlers and distributors. So if I can get the puck to one of them, go to the net and cause some havoc, they'll be able to have good opportunities."
But don't be fooled. Hartnell also has a knack for putting the puck in the net, as evidenced by his 24 regular-season goals in 80 games for the Flyers this winter. He finished ninth on the team with 43 points, was second in penalty minutes (159) and tied for second in hits (110). He has three postseason goals, including two during the team's five-game elimination of the Montreal Canadiens in the Eastern Conference Semifinals.
His switch from left wing to right wing in the final two weeks of the regular season coincided with his move alongside Briere and Prospal. The move wasn't that big a deal for Hartnell, who also saw time at the position during his six seasons with Nashville.
"I played right wing on and off in Nashville for a few years and actually liked the right side better," Hartnell admitted. "You can catch a pass on your backhand and pull up a little easier. Vinny's home is on the left-hand side so I try not to go over there too often, but we were switching a lot the first few games. It takes a few games to get used to."
Flyers coach John Stevens has been pleased with Hartnell's energetic approach.
"There's been a lot of talk about Danny and Vinny and the chemistry they've had, but there's no question Scotty has been a really good fit there," Stevens said. "He's got good skills for a big guy, plays a physical game and goes to the net. He's actually done a great job moving from left to right wing, gets in position to shoot the puck and reads off of our guys really well. He's been a very effective player."
Hartnell spent three seasons in the Western Hockey League, perfecting his game with the Prince Albert Raiders. In the 1999–2000 season, he not only was team captain, but the leading scorer (82 points) and team MVP.
"(Former Edmonton Oiler) Kevin McClelland was my coach in Prince Albert and he was a great teacher," Hartnell recalled. "I was only 16 at the time, but Kevin taught me toughness and how to take care of myself away from the ice. Some compare the WHL to the NHL in that there is a lot of physical play and the games are low scoring. I feel that enabled me to make the jump to the NHL when I was 18 and, fortunately, that's when Nashville gave me an opportunity."
Nashville selected Hartnell, who posted 37 goals, 90 assists and 230 penalty minutes in 128 games with Prince Albert, in the first round (sixth overall) of the 2000 Entry Draft. The gritty power forward learned much from Predators captain Tom Fitzgerald, who, according to Hartnell, exhibited an exceptional work ethic.
"I had two goals and 14 assists my first year in Nashville and that was frustrating to me," Hartnell said. "I guess I didn't know if it would be easy or not, but it took me a couple of years to get my feet wet."
Hartnell was traded, along with defenseman Kimmo Timonen
, to the Flyers in June 2007.
His play this postseason has been invaluable to Briere and Prospal, who rank first and second, respectively, on the team's playoff scoring list.
"He's a physical player with a great presence and he gives me and Danny room to play with the puck a little bit more in the offensive zone," Prospal said. "He scored a big goal in Montreal (in Game 5) and has really been an important part of our success as a team."