BOSTON — Scott Hartnell has plenty of reasons to like Boston.
His brother lives in the area, having settled in Franklin, Mass. — the same town where Flyers coach Peter Laviolette grew up.
But Hartnell understands that Boston has even more reasons to dislike him and the rest of his Philadelphia teammates after the Flyers rallied from a 3-0 series deficit and a 3-0 hole in Game 7 to defeat the Bruins in the second round of last year's playoffs.
"It will be hostile I'm sure, to say the least," said Hartnell of the reception he expects when the Flyers return to Boston for the first time since Game 7 on Saturday. "I'm sure there are a lot of disappointed Boston fans, not only the ones that were at Game 7 but the ones watching at home, so it will be a pretty cool experience to come in here and hopefully steal another one and keep the rivalry going."
Hartnell already got a taste of the reaction on Friday when he was out shopping with his brother. Even though Hartnell recently trimmed his trademark long curly red hair and donated it to the Locks for Love charity, a clerk recognized him and stopped him to show off his Bruins tattoo and give the Flyers forward some grief.
Hartnell takes the fan abuse in stride though. After all, he'll always have the last laugh with how that series ended.
"My brother and his family live in the Boston area, so they were pretty jacked up to see us win, even though they're Boston fans when they play anyone but Philadelphia," said Hartnell, who still relishes the 4-3 comeback victory in Game 7. "It was just an unbelievable game for everybody and for me personally it was one of my best memories in hockey so far.
"It was a pretty cool game — for us," added Hartnell with a final twist of the knife.
Hartnell wasn't sure he'd have anything to taunt Boston fans with last spring however, especially after the Bruins jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the first period.
"The first 15 minutes were not too good," said Hartnell. "Going down 3-0 pretty quick was not the start we wanted, but I think we did a great job fighting back and ruined a night they were supposed to win Game 7 and dominate. We came back as the underdogs and kept fighting right to the end."
While the rivalry between the Bruins and Flyers is as intense as ever, Hartnell also has plenty of respect for Boston.
"It's a tough team," said Hartnell. "They've got great goaltending with both [Tim] Thomas and [Tuukka] Rask, whoever they put in net is a top-level goaltender in the NHL. Their defense, obviously [Zdeno] Chara is one of the best d-men in the league, so you really have to be on top of your game to play against these guys. [You have to] get pucks on the net and get second chances, because you know if you go to the net you're going to get cross-checked, you're going slashed, you're going to get bumped. Guys have to pay the price to get to the net against them."
Hartnell and Thomas in particular have engaged in a long-running battle. The Flyers' only goal in the Winter Classic at Fenway last New Year's Day came when Thomas was caught out of position going after Hartnell for crashing the crease, and in the first meeting this year, the pair earned matching minors for another clash. Thomas landed a solid glove shot to Hartnell, then stoned him on a penalty shot minutes later.
"He smoked me pretty good in the face last game," said Hartnell. "I came out of the penalty box and had a breakaway and a penalty shot and he got me good on those too. He's a competitor. He very animated, never out of a save. He's come across making some saves. He's always on the highlights coming out of nowhere with a glove save. He's always there ready to spoil your opportunities."
Bruins fans hope Thomas and the rest of the club will spoil Hartnell's return to Boston on Saturday night. It won't change what happened last spring, but it might at least give another clerk in Boston some material to use on Hartnell in his next shopping excursion in the area.