Flyers teammates don't call Scott Hartnell
"Samson," but maybe they should. As the power forward's hair has gotten longer, he's gotten better.
The ever-thickening mane of curly brown locks hasn't been trimmed in about 18 months, and is pushing his helmet to maximum capacity.
"It's just kind of a fun thing I've been doing," Hartnell told NHL.com. "It's pretty crazy in the mornings, but I have fun with it. I've gone this far into the season, so I might as well let her go."
As his hair grows, so has his offensive output. Heading into this weekend's home-and-home set with the Rangers, capped by Sunday's NHL on NBC Game of the Week (12:30 p.m. ET), he's already set a personal-best with 50 points in 66 games, and with 24 goals, he's one off his career-high. And his crease-crashing style of play has opened up space for linemates Joffrey Lupul
and All-Star center Jeff Carter
, who has 38 goals, the third-highest total in the League.
"He goes hard to the net," Lupul said to NHL.com. "He's got good abilities, too. Sometimes that gets lost in how he plays. He's got good skills, goes to the net hard and gets rewarded sometimes with those banger-type goals."
"I think Scotty is not much different from Mike Knuble
, where he's got the size and the willingness to go to corners or the front of the net and complement skilled people very well," Flyers coach John Stevens
told NHL.com. "Scotty played great with (Danny) Briere and (Vaclav) Prospal last year, he played a good part of the year with Mike Richards
and played very well. He's just a big guy that provides the ingredients with skilled people that allow you to have success. He comes up with a lot of loose pucks, gets to the net. He sees the ice a lot better than people realize and can make a lot of support plays. I think he's a better offensive player than even I realized when he got here."
Hartnell spent his first six seasons with the Nashville Predators
and came to the Flyers in the summer of 2007. He had an inconsistent first season, but found his groove late and into the playoffs. He's carried it over to this season, as he, Carter and Lupul are three of the Flyers' League-high six 20-goal scorers.
"The first 20 games last year was really tough, just trying to learn the system, new guys on the team, new place to live," Hartnell said. "It's not as easy as people think. I got into a groove there for a while. This year, I got comfortable. You know the trainers, you know the coaches, they know what you can do out there. John has put me in a lot of different situations to succeed and I'm much appreciative of that."
The biggest part of Hartnell's game, said Stevens, is constant movement.
"He moves well and that's whole key. When he stops moving his feet, that's usually when he starts turning pucks over. When he moves his feet and protects the puck, he's a good player and good things happen."
When he doesn't, there are nights like Nov. 11, when Stevens benched Hartnell for the third period of a game at the Islanders, and said afterward, "It looked like he didn't want to play tonight, so we went in another direction. I didn't like his game and didn't think he was moving his feet."
If there was any anger, Hartnell took it out on the opposition. In 52 games since the benching, he has 20 goals and 42 points.
"I had a couple bad shifts in a row and he said something to me and I might have said something back," Hartnell said. "I knew from that point on I was going to be a cheerleader that night. … We talked about it after the game and resolved our issues. We have that relationship where you can constructively criticize someone and take the good from it."
Stevens said he's seen mostly good from Hartnell since then.
"That night was a long time ago and he wasn't doing a whole lot of anything; not moving his feet was just one thing," said Stevens. "That doesn't happen very often with Scotty. He's been a good player most nights."
He's also been good off the ice. Hartnell is one of a half-dozen players who live in the upscale Old City section of Philadelphia.
"Everyone is within 2-3 blocks of each other, all the young guys who live downtown," said Hartnell. "We carpool in the morning, go for dinners at night sometimes, after the game go for a bite to eat. It's a good group of guys down there, it's fun, and the city has been really good to us."
Contact Adam Kimelman at email@example.com.