TAMPA, Fla. — From the moment he arrived in training camp, because of his irascible style and agitating ability, Ryan Hartman was saddled with the label of The Next Andrew Shaw. But Hartman has proven himself to be much more than a poor-man’s Shaw. With 18 goals, and the versatility to play on any line and in all three forward spots, he’s been a key reason the Blackhawks sit atop the Western Conference standings.
But lately, he’s starting to resemble Shaw in an unflattering way — by taking too many penalties.
After sitting just two penalty minutes in his first 24 games, Hartman has racked up 66 penalty minutes in his last 46 games. His double-minor Saturday night — two for hooking and two for unsportsmanlike conduct for mouthing off to an official — proved costly in the Hawks’ abysmal 7-0 loss to the Panthers, and he was benched for more than 20 minutes of game time as a result. Hartman also took a tripping penalty and had an ill-timed fight during the second period Thursday night against Dallas.
And the lapses in judgment cost Hartman his spot in the lineup. For one game, at least. Hartman, who hasn’t missed a game since Nov. 15, will be a healthy scratch Monday night against the Tampa Bay Lightning. Joel Quenneville spent a few minutes after Monday’s morning skate chatting with Hartman along the boards, making sure the message was delivered.
“Message, or whatever, I think that sometimes you’ve got to learn how you handle certain situations,” Quenneville said.
Quenneville has sent such late-season messages before, not-so-subtle reminders that with the playoffs just around the corner, everyone has to be at the top of their game. Brandon Saad was benched for a game during the last week of the 2013-14 season while dealing with a slump.
Hartman, like Saad, has made an instant impact as a young player, and quickly won over Quenneville. But other than Shaw, for whom Quenneville always had a soft spot, taking unnecessary penalties is a sure-fire way to earn a trip to the dog house.
Hartman made it a point early in this rookie season to stay out of the box. In his two full seasons in Rockford, he racked up 120 and 129 penalty minutes. And he knew that wouldn’t fly in the NHL, especially for Quenneville. Following the debacle in South Florida, Hartman was pointed with his answers.
“Bad play by me, won’t happen again,” he said of the unsportsmanlike penalty.
Asked if he needs to get that out of his game, Hartman replied curtly: “I mean, yeah. I don’t think anyone likes taking penalties.”
The Hawks are perennially one of the league’s least-penalized teams, and even after taking 10 penalties against the Panthers, they’re still 29th in the league. So Quenneville’s not terribly concerned about the sudden uptick in transgressions by Hartman and the rest of the team. But he’s certainly got his eye on it, and with the playoffs barely two weeks away, won’t stand for it much longer.
“We’re pretty good discipline-wise,” Quenneville said. “We don’t take mental penalties. We haven’t seen that [unsportsmanlike] flavor. I’m not sure we’ve taken any of those kind of penalties all year. But you can’t take that kind of penalty.”
NOTES: Scott Darling will get the start against Tampa Bay. Quenneville said it was a scheduled start, and not a response to the loss in Florida, in which both Darling and Corey Crawford struggled. … Tanner Kero will get his first crack at centering Artemi Panarin and Patrick Kane, while Tomas Jurco and Andrew Desjardins draw into the lineup for Hartman and Dennis Rasmussen. … Quenneville said Artem Anisimov is still on the same timetable for his lower-body injury. “We anticipate Arty being ready” for the playoffs, he said.