Whenever Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins winger Bobby Farnham delivers a big hit or drops the gloves in front of the home crowd, fans erupt into a chant of “Bobby, Bobby.”
Farnham hears them loud and clear, and said the chants are “probably one of the coolest things I’ve experienced in my career.”
But lately, Farnham has given the home crowd something else to chant about — goals.
Heading into Friday, Farnham had scored three goals in nine games through February and also set up another. Before February, he had scored only twice.
So is the Penguins’ popular agitator ditching the physical side of his game for one with more offensive flair.
“I’m not going to lose that edge that makes me the player I am,” Farnham said. “I still see myself as an agitator, but when you can make offensive plays as well, it goes along with becoming an overall better player.”
When it comes to making offensive plays, Farnham’s recent goals have been nice but a pass he made to set up Mike Carman in last Tuesday’s 6-5 win over Hershey was just as sweet. Battling for the puck and gaining possession behind the Hershey net, Farnham turned and peeled off a defender and feathered a beautiful pass out in front for Carman, who banged home a one-timer.
The play reaffirmed that Farnham not only has the ability to hit and bang, but also a sense for the offensive game as well.
“He has it,” head coach John Hynes said. “It’s a part of his game that he’s worked hard on all year.”
Offense has always been a part of Farnham’s game, even though it has just recently surfaced at the pro level. During his four years at Brown University, Farnham’s point totals increased each season. As a senior, he scored eight goals and 21 points in 31 games, and saw extensive time on the power play. His 21 points were tied for second-most on the team.
Farnham said his yearly improvement in college was the result of learning from his mistakes and a coaching change after his freshman season. The new staff, he said, emphasized working on offensive zone play, something Farnham said he never thought much about until then.
“Everything I learned while playing college is paying off now,” he said. “I learned from my mistakes, got better each year in college, and now I’m taking that same approach with the pro game.”
Ironically, those same attributes that make Farnham such an effective agitator — speed and hard work — are also making him an offensive threat.
Hynes said for the first half of the season Farnham used his speed and work ethic primarily to disrupt opponents. Now, as the Penguins enter the stretch run with the playoffs on the line, Farnham’s focus has shifted to being a productive player offensively as well.
“What you’re seeing now is he’s able to blend that hard work and speed into more productivity. There’s hard work with productivity now,” Hynes said.
But when the productivity wasn’t there, Hynes sent Farnham a clear message by making him a healthy scratch.
That’s what happened on Feb. 22, when Farnham sat out against the Providence Bruins after going scoreless and posting a minus-2 in the prior two games.
For Farnham, sitting out a game conjured up memories of his early college days when he was a healthy scratch for two straight games.
“You never want that to happen to you again,” he said. “When you get to the pro level and it does happen again, it makes you want to comes out stronger and play well that first game back.”
That’s exactly what Farnham did when he came back for Tuesday’s contest against the Bears. Not only did he set up Carman’s goal, but he also added one himself to record his third multi-point game this season.
While Farnham’s five goals eclipsed last season’s total of three, he is also two points away from equaling last season’s career mark of 11 points.
And just for good measure, Farnham’s penalty minute total of 119 is second on the Penguins, proving that he still likes to play the role of agitator.
But if he had to choose… “I’ll always be an agitator and drawing a penalty on an opponent is great, but there’s nothing like scoring a goal,” he said. “That is the best feeling in the world.”