With the lockout shortened season about to commence, it’s no surprise the first shot fired between interstate rivals comes from Scott Hartnell. Well, that’s not true actually. NBC took that upon themselves in an awesome display of ignorance, or maybe trolling (hopefully trolling!) with their commercial falsely claiming the Pens winners of last summer’s instant classic between Pittsburg and Philadephila. As much of an insult that NBC commercial was to the Flyers and their faithful, it was yet another pinch of salt thrown in the festering wound the Penguins were dealt in the most recent battle for Pennsylvania. .
One would think there is some uneasiness in the locker room going into the first game of the season. No one knows how players will react with the rush to put a product out on the ice. It may be nothing. Plenty of players have downplayed the effectiveness of training camp. Unfortunately, that’s not the Flyers only problem. Holmgren has dusted off the same old defensive holes they had in the summer, only now complicated with more injuries. Defense looks shaky and injured after the New Year? Sounds about right.
That’s when The Scott Hartnell Factor comes in for the Flyers. A teammate willing to put the target on his back, and walk the walk just as well as he talks it. Hartnell is to the Flyers what Captain Caveman is to his team on Wacky Races. They’re goofy, loveable, brutish, powerful, sometimes frustrating hair mountains. Magnets for opponent’s ire. Covering up holes in their respective teams lineup with a surprising array of abilities. Don’t be mistaken; they are loveable goofballs, but no jokes when it comes to competition. They are feared as well. Opposing teams have to plan for them. Who would have thought a player some felt had an albatross of a contract would be beloved by those same fans? From “bust” to bargain… No, not Captain Caveman, I’m done with that analogy. I’m talking about all star goal scorer Scott Hartnell, on a line with the Sedins; chirping away with lunch pail in hand, just another day in factory busting fellow coworkers balls, “Hey, suck it Phanuef!”.
Mike Knuble signing in Washington was very fortuitous in hindsight. Who knows where rink star Hartnell would be taking headers for charity had things gone differently?
Even before the Penguins hit the ice tomorrow, Hartnell has their attention. The sound byte had to of trickled down to them by now. So at least for a moment, Hartnell had Penguins players remembering how much they hate him. He was back in their head for a second and then pushed out again, like some gory scene of your life you remember and then quickly try to cover back up again. When the scene is playing out right in front of you though, it’s unavoidable. Hartnell will be hard to ignore, right in the thick of it. Relentless, physically and verbally, Hartnell has almost a pro wrestler persona and the Pens/Flyers rivalry is right on track for another royal rumble. Sit back and enjoy. I mean whatcha gonna do, brother?