Wild center Ryan Hartman knows exactly how to get under opponents’ skin
This is the line that Hartman has been toeing his whole career. Not always to perfection
Sure, maybe center Ryan Hartman could have tried a little bit harder to avoid St. Louis Blues goaltender Jordan Binnington during the Minnesota Wild’s 8-5 victory on Wednesday. Instead of continuing on his line after scoring a goal, Hartman could have skated around Binnington in the crease pretty easily.
That would not have elicited the same reaction from the Blues goaltender, though, which was kind of the point of Hartman doing what he did. With the Wild starting to pour it on, Hartman was well aware that Binnington was on the brink of losing his cool.
All he needed was a little push. Literally.
“We were all kind of getting on him from the bench,” Hartman said Friday. “Honestly, it was only a matter of time before he did something. We even told the ref before that faceoff that he was going to do something stupid that shift. And sure enough, he did.”
Indeed. After getting clipped by Hartman ever so slightly, Binnington skated over and sucker punched him with his blocker. That sparked a scrum that even got Marc-Andre Fleury to drop the gloves after racing over from the other end of the ice. The following day, the NHL suspended Binnington for two games.
“There are certain guys around the league that have short tempers,” Hartman said with a smile. “I’ve played enough games to know who those guys are.”
This is the line that Hartman has been toeing his whole career. He’s the ultimate agitator, who knows exactly how to get under people’s skin.
Just ask teammate Matt Dumba.
“I remember playing against Ryan when we were 16, 17, 18,” Dumba said. “I hated the guy. Just absolutely despised him. I wanted to run him every chance I got.”
That reputation has followed Hartman to the highest level. He broke into the league with the Chicago Blackhawks in the twilight of their dynasty and made a name for himself as a gritty player unafraid to mix it up after the whistle. He eventually got traded to the Nashville Predators, then the Philadelphia Flyers, filling a void in the bottom half of the lineup.
“When I wasn’t playing big minutes, it was hard to say stuff to other guys,” Hartman said. “I wasn’t making too much of an impact on the game, and that line was being used against me. It’s not fun to hear that all the time. Now, I feel I have a bigger role so I can be more vocal.”
Since signing with the Wild as a free agent on July 1, 2019, Hartman has developed into an irreplaceable player for Minnesota. He scored a career-high 34 goals last season as the No. 1 center on the roster and has finally found his footing this season after a frustrating start.
That said, Hartman hasn’t always struck the perfect balance when it comes to toeing the line. He sat out as a healthy scratch a couple of months ago because of his lack of discipline. He was taking way too many penalties, and coach Dean Evason finally decided enough was enough.
“Sometimes he hasn’t been very good at that,” Evason said. “We know a guy like that has to play on the line. You can even cross the line a few times. It just can’t be a consistent thing.”
In that same breath, Evason credited Hartman for learning his lesson after getting benched.
That was on display in the immediate aftermath of his scrape with Binnington. He opted not to retaliate. Asked about that decision, Hartman joked that the younger version of himself would not have shown as much restraint.
“We’re trying to get first place in the Central Division,” he said. “I think getting the two points was more important than getting payback.”
As much as that maturity is a good sign, Hartman knows he still has to play with an edge. As do the rest of his teammates.
“It elevates him,” Dumba said. “It always has. He’s a guy that pushes everyone’s buttons. We love having him on our side doing the dirty work for us.”
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