Ryan Hartman introduced himself to Philadelphia at 4:24 of Tuesday’s game against Buffalo. His first shift, a long skate from the middle of the ice after a long day of physicals, car rides, and introductions, featured a how-do-you-do hit that pancaked Buffalo’s Rasmus Dahlin moments after the Sabre had banged into arguably the Flyers’ best player, Sean Couturier.
The Wells Fargo Center crowd of 18,466 roared in approval.
“What a shift!!!” Scott Hartnell, his former Nashville Predators teammate, tweeted. “We called him deuce…”
Seems there was already a "Hartsy" around in Nashville when Hartman arrived from Chicago last year at this time. And Hartnell established his copyright immediately upon meeting his new young teammate, whose physicality and frame – he's 6-foot, 181 pounds – often leaves him, like Hartnell, sprawling after a hit.
“First thing he said to me when I got traded there,” Hartman said. “He came up with Deuce, as in Hartsy No.2. So I went by Deuce when he was there. It kind of stick around a little bit this year, but it kind of fell back to Hartsy eventually. Unless Scott came walking in the room. Then I was right back to Deuce.”
With Carter Hart already here and likely to be his goaltender for the immediate and distant future, Hartman is again a man in search of a handle. Nicknames in hockey are an established tradition: If the name ends in a consonant, an -sy is added to the end. If the number of syllables make that awkward, then the last name is shortened. If the name already ends in a vowel sound – Gretzky, Recchi, Crosby – the sound is eliminated and the nickname established, or a first name is used.
Hence the Hartsy dilemma.
“I’ve heard Harts around here,” he said. “We’ll see what comes of that. I don’t really care.”
About the nickname. About finding a niche on his new team, he cares very much.
Hartman had a game Tuesday that Wayne Simmonds would be proud to call his own. There were four charted hits (my count was five), two of them splattering people. There were four shots on net from five attempted. His hit on Dahlin provoked a scrum that resulted in an extra two minutes for Buffalo’s Zach Bogosian.
"I thought he set the tone right away and created a lot of momentum for us," said Travis Sanheim. "And we fed off of that."
Later, he won a puck battle along the boards that led to James van Riemsdyk’s tip-in goal, re-establishing a two-goal lead and stealing momentum from a Sabres rally. Perhaps most memorable, though, was a second-period collision with Jake McCabe – a good friend he trains with in the offseason. Lining him up, McCabe, who outweighs Hartman by 25 pounds, anchored himself at mid-ice. The two collided, and McCabe bounced a few yards backward, landing on his back.
"I told him he dove," said Hartman. "Should have gotten an embellishment for that."
“I remember seeing one of his first shifts in the league,” said van Riemsdyk, who played with him on a third line centered by Scott Laughton. “He comes off the bench and does the same thing a few years back in Chicago. He’s got that type of impact on games, and he’s obviously really strong on his skates. I don’t know if he, like, surprises guys or what he does. But he’s really solid on his skates and wins a lot of pucks back. So it’s fun to play with him.”
In St. Louis, where Simmonds joined his new team, it did not go as well. The Predators, who have struggled with scoring over the last two months, were shut out by the resurgent Blues, 2-0. Simmonds had 15:46 of ice time, 2:19 on the power play, and registered two shots.
He did not have a charted hit.
It was only one game for sure, and it’s not as if Hartman was lighting the lamp for Nashville before arriving, although there has been a small spike in his offense in the last month. He had two good chances Tuesday, one early, one late, the first shot blocked by a defenseman’s stick, the second opportunity dissipating when he opted to go wide rather than take a shot from farther out.
By and large, though, he made the good first impression that traded players hope to make. By the time the second period rolled around, the Wells Fargo fans knew his number, knew his game, and seemingly roared in anticipation every time he built up some speed.
“It sounded like they loved it,” he said. "I plan on bringing a lot more of that …