Once upon a time this season Scott Hartnell looked lost out on the ice. His line mate of two seasons Villie Leino was signed by the Buffalo Sabres, leaving head coach Peter Laviolette in a tough spot. Where was Hartnell going to fit in with all of these new pieces on the Flyers?
After playing around just 9-11 minutes in the first couple of games on the third line, Laviolette moved him up to the first line with Claude Giroux and Jaromir Jagr. It turned out to be the best move of the season so far as the three have combined for 133 points. Jagr has looked Jagr circa 99-03 and Giroux has propelled himself into Hart Trophy consideration, but it is Hartnell that has been the biggest beneficiary.
He currently leads the team in goals with 25, but more surprisingly he is tied for the NHL lead in power play goals with 13. This past weekend was a hell of a weekend for Hartnell as he scored five times including three times on the power play.
So this question has to be asked, where is the sudden surge in goals coming from on the power play?
In order to answer this question I took a look at the games over this weekend against the Devils and Bruins to try and see if there was anything noticeable.
Let’s begin in the third period against New Jersey. Laviolette had his first power play line of Wayne Simmonds, Giroux, and Hartnell on the ice. On the power play the Flyers love to keep the puck close to the boards and work it around the zone. Here Simmonds takes the puck to the right of Brodeur and passes it to Giroux. Meanwhile Hartnell is getting his balance back after a hit behind the net, but because Giroux has the puck all of the defenders now lock into their box formation and forget about number 19.
Giroux skates around a little bit giving Hartnell time to get to his spot, as Giroux does this notice that all four of the Devils penalty killers and Brodeur have their eyes locked on the puck. By giving Giroux that much respect they have completely lost sight of the fact that Hartnell has split their defense.
The Devils leave Giroux with a ridiculously big lane to pass the puck to Hartnell. Now it becomes a one on one between Hartnell and Brodeur and because the future hall of fame goalie was paying his full attention to Giroux he doesn’t have enough time to get in position to make a save. Notice the shaded area, which is how much of an open net Hartnell had to finish off his one timer. Give a red hot goal scorer that much area and you’re sure to be burned.