Kevin Froelich The Hockey Writers
Flyers’ Success Rides on Hart’s Shoulders
Despite Tuesday night’s 2-0 loss to the Boston Bruins, along with the end of the Philadelphia Flyers’ nine-game win streak, Carter Hart stood strong in between the pipes. He saved 27 out of 29 shots on net, giving him a save percentage of .931. Against the majority of teams, that would have been enough to seal the win. Unfortunately for Philadelphia, Bruins’ goalie Tuukka Rask was on a hot streak last night stopping all 36 shots made by the Flyers. By no means did this loss result from lack of effort on the Flyer’s part, there’s just no getting around a seasoned goaltender that’s preparing for another Stanley Cup push.
Within the last eight games that Hart has played, he’s saved 26 shots or more per game with his highest goals-against being three. He is currently 20-3-2 at home and 4-10-1 on the road with a save percentage at home of .943 and on the road a save percentage of .857.
Related: Ranking the NHL’s 31 Starting Goalies – Midseason Update
With the season end coming in the next few weeks, the popular conversation of who Philly’s number one goalie is should be put to rest. His contributions during the win streak placed Hart in the history books by becoming the first goaltender in the league to have multiple win streaks of seven games or more by the age of 21. This news grabbed the attention of hockey fans all over the world yet Flyers fans know that setting records is a part of Hart’s game.
The Story so Far
With only two NHL seasons under the younger goaltender’s belt, he has every potential to become not only the Flyers’ starter but a franchise goaltender. Hart closed out his rookie season (2018-19) with a record of 16-13-1 with a save percentage of .917. Fans were pleased but believed that his numbers could’ve been higher given that he was pulled up later on.
Fast forward to this season and Hart has proved himself even more. His performance at home has placed him amongst league leaders and boosted the Flyers’ overall confidence, which has led the team to a potential first-place seed within the Metropolitan Division. Head coach Alain Vigneault stated to Ed Barkowitz in a piece for The Inquirer in January of this year:
This is the first [goalie] I’ve seen grow before my eyes and I’m really enjoying it. I can’t say if he’ll get to that [level]. You’re talking about two Hall of Famers there [Luongo, Lundqvist]. But I can say that what I’ve seen so far, the attitude, the time he puts in to be the best, and the quality of the kid. He’s a good kid. … If I was a betting man, I’d bet on himAlain Vigneault (from ‘Flyers goalie Carter Hart is a different experience for veteran coach Alain Vigneault,’ The Inquirer – 01/11/2020)
Heavy on the Hart
Yet there is one major remaining question that still hangs over Hart’s head. Will he be able to take his home performance and apply that to his away game? Twenty-eight of his 73 career games have been away and of those, he has only won nine. Analysts have stressed this point all through this season but fans remain unfazed.
Related: Flyers’ Best 2019-20 Offseason Acquisition – Alain Vigneault
Carter’s state of mind is exactly that: unphased. Age is just a number when it comes to evaluating the sophomore because of his professionalism in every aspect of his career. Many believe that Hart is the answer to the Philadelphia goalie curse and can etch his name into the organization along with the likes of Bernie Parent, Pelle Lindbergh, and Ron Hextall.
With 10 games remaining in the regular season Philadelphia has an opportunity to make a deep playoff run. Given the recent streak, they’ve shown they can compete among the league’s elite. The unpredictability of where the remainder of the Flyers season is going comes from the team’s history of having such drastic hot and cold streaks. Statistics only get you so far in predictions of how far they may take it, but the truth of the matter is that with the Flyers, you just never know what you’re going to get.
The one thing that can’t be argued about Philly is that they’ve been able to build strong confidence in their goaltending. Now the question is, will they be able to take this loss and keep that confidence building, or will this be the start of their decline? The one constant in all of this speculation is the reliance the team can place on Carter Hart. Win or lose, the goaltender has held himself accountable and has a clear hunger to succeed in the postseason.
As it always seems to be with the Flyers, only time will tell. Fans and players just need to trust the process. All good things come in time, as long as Philly has some Hart.
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