Going into the Stanley Cup finals, one of the most-hyped matchups was Dustin Byfuglien vs. Chris Pronger (hey, we hyped it up on Pro Hockey Talk, too). Of course, there was that one nagging problem: Byfuglien can be a bit, um, flighty.
If the Philadelphia Flyers have their own hot-and-cold answer to Byfuglien, it’s the mop-haired wonder Scott Hartnell.
Sure, there are some key differences between the two. For one thing, Hartnell is listed at 6-2, 210 lbs, while Byfuglien is 6-3 and given the (optimistic) weight of 243 lbs. Hartnell came into the league with much higher expectations as the No. 6 selection in the first round of the 2000 NHL draft while Buff was selected in the eight round in 2003.
Subtle – and significant – differences aside, they both still have a lot in common. They each play a rough and tumble style, often get in the heads of goalies and can be pesky without strictly playing a “pest” role. People tend to chide on them for effort, but being that they fight “in the trenches” I can’t help but wonder if their sporadic success might have more to do with bounces than effort.
Right now, Hartnell is beating Byfuglien at his own game and it seems like the two switched roles. Hartnell recorded 2 goals and 3 assists in three SCF games while Buff only has one assist. Compare that to their night-and-day performances before the finals. Byfuglien scored points in 6 out of 7 of his last games before the finals with 10 overall in that span; Hartnell went four games without a point against Montreal.
Sports teams depend heavily on stars, no doubt, but the Hartnells and Byfugliens of the world often make the difference between wins and losses. The Flyers might be down 2-1 so far, but Hartnell is a big reason why they’re still in the series.