Hartnell recently had an eight-game point-scoring streak that saw him score four goals and nine points. So far this season, Hartnell has just 10 goals and 22 points in 40 games. While this is a far cry from the 37 goals and 67 points he scored in 2011-12, a productive Hartnell helps give the Flyers scoring depth and lineup options and makes them a tougher team to play against.
The change for Hartnell really started when he was put on the second line with Wayne Simmonds and Brayden Schenn. The trio has really clicked, and all three players have contributed to the team's recent 5-1-0 road trip and their current 10-game winning streak at home.
Another impressive aspect of Hartnell's recent improvement in production is that almost all of it has come at even strength. Only two of nine points Hartnell scored over his eight-game point streak came while the Flyers had the extra man.
The line provides grit for the Flyers as well as scoring ability and can be used to try to limit opposing scoring lines as well as putting the puck in the net. They make things hard on opponents in all three zones.
Like most players on the Flyers, Hartnell got off to a very slow start offensively. He didn't even register a point in his first nine games this season and missed four games earlier in the season due to injury.
While he hasn't been scoring consistently until his recent streak, Hartnell has been contributing in other ways. He is a plus-five for the season, which ties him for the club lead. He is also third among Flyers forwards with 74 hits on the season.
Having Hartnell as a scoring threat gives the Flyers a surplus of capable offensive players on their roster, something most experts felt they had when the season started. Players like Vincent Lecavalier, Claude Giroux, Jakub Voracek and Michael Raffl are all capable of scoring at least 20 goals, and those are in addition to the trio of Hartnell, Brayden Schenn and Simmonds.
This depth makes it tougher for opposing teams to concentrate on stopping just one unit when facing the Flyers. It also gives the team more options if and when forwards are sidelined by injury or if a player is slumping and needs to be benched.
Perhaps more importantly, it gives the Flyers options as the NHL trade deadline approaches. If there are more productive forwards on the roster, they can feel more comfortable dealing one of the surplus players and possibly get more in return when a deal is actually made.
But in the short run, the biggest benefit of Hartnell's hot play shows up in the win column. The Flyers were 6-2-0 during Hartnall's point streak and 7-2-0 in their last nine games. A record like that is the key to the rest of the season in Philadelphia.