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Carter Hart is Back

(Heather Barry Images, LLC)

The 2019-20 version of Carter Hart gave Philadelphia Flyers fans the optimism that they finally found their goalie of the future after a disastrous goalie carousel that’s lasted over 20 years. In the COVID-shortened season, the young netminder played in 40 games and posted a record of 24-13-3 with a 2.42 GAA and .914 save percentage. He played even better in the playoffs, going 9-5 with a sensational 2.23 GAA, a .926 save percentage, and 2 shutouts. 

The wheels were in motion for a grand 2020-21 season as the starter of a 56-game schedule. However, that was all for naught as the wheels completely fell off. He finished the year 9-11-5 with a ghastly 3.67 GAA and a .877 save percentage. It wasn’t entirely his fault as the defense in front of him was probably worse, however he did himself no favours in most of the blowout losses. 

A lot was discussed throughout the season as well as the off-season as to whether or not Carter Hart could bounce back and become the starting goalie the Flyers desperately needed. For most of us, it seemed like a no-brainer because last season was abysmal by circumstance.

The Flyers made no changes to their roster other than signing Erik Gustafsson to replace the suddenly-retired Matt Niskanen. The defense was abysmal, the locker room was lost, the coaches and the players weren’t on the same page, and as Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman pointed out, there was negative air all throughout the team. 

All things considered, it was no surprise that the Flyers bellied out and played some of the worst hockey in recent memory. After a slew of off-season changes, the Flyers defense looks revamped with Ryan Ellis, Rasmus Ristolainen, and Keith Yandle essentially replacing Shayne Gostisbehere, Robert Hagg, and Erik Gustafsson. Team morale seems to have skyrocketed, and so far it shows with a 5-2-1 record to start the season. 

Carter Hart’s first attempt at his bounce-back campaign came at the hands of the Vancouver Canucks on opening night. Hart had a disastrous second period allowing 4 goals, some of which were miscues, while others were just bad positioning on his part. He rallied by stopping 22 consecutive shots in the third period and overtime as the Flyers’ late rally fell short in a shootout. He made some spectacular saves, especially in overtime as he was able to keep the door shut for a comeback. 

His next game came against the Seattle Kraken and he played some “vintage” Carter Hart hockey in that one. The Kraken peppered the netminder with some fantastic opportunities in the early part of the first period, none bigger than the diving glove save on Jordan Eberle with an open net in his sights. That save propelled the Flyers to a 6-1 win and Hart made 23 saves en route to his first victory of the season. 

With Martin Jones getting his first start against the Boston Bruins, the Flyers came toe to toe with the then-undefeated Florida Panthers in the following game. Hart kept the Flyers in the game for as long as he could until a late shorthanded goal iced the game. He had to make several ten-bell saves, especially in the second period, none bigger than a glove save on the penalty kill on Jonathan Huberdeau who was wide open in the slot. The Flyers battled valiantly but Sergei Bobrovsky shut the door on a late rally. 

Heading into the dreaded Western Canadian road trip, the Flyers had a back-to-back set against the Edmonton Oilers and Vancouver Canucks. In a homecoming for Hart, he stymied the Oilers by stopping 34 of 37 shots as the Flyers were able to hold on for a 5-3 win. Hart had a few hiccups early in the game with the Oilers buzzing, but stopped the final 22 shots of the game. Many of which came from Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl. 

The Calgary Flames were the final team on the three-game road trip and they were entering the contest red-hot, coming off a 5-0-0 road trip. The Flyers looked sluggish, tired, and unprepared as the Flames pounced. If it wasn’t for Carter Hart, the game could’ve been over in the first or second period. At one point the Flyers went 14 minutes without a shot and were being outshot 22-4 midway through the game. 

The Flyers lost the game 4-0 but the score was not indicative to how Hart played. The third goal was an empty-netter and the fourth goal was just from a lack of defensive help at the tail end of a losing effort. In other words, Hart was fantastic, the Flyers were not. It was 1-0 until midway through the third period, so the Flyers had their chances to get their young net minder the victory. 

Coming into the game with a 2-2-1 record, a 2.79 GAA, and a .915 save percentage, the Flyers returned home against the winless Arizona Coyotes. The 0-8-1 Coyotes threw everything including the kitchen sink at Hart but he stood his ground to record his 3rd career shutout, making 29 saves along the way. He improved his record to 3-2-1 with a sparkling .928 save percentage and an even better 2.33 GAA in his his first shutout of the year.

It was a frustrating game as the Flyers played very loose defensively, leaving Hart to fend off several great scoring chances from a team who’s leading scorer was defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere with 5 points. Offensively they couldn’t find the back of the twine until the third period and they even went 159 minutes without a goal, going back to the Vancouver game. 

Had it not been for Hart, the game could’ve been an upset of epic proportions, but luckily the Flyers kept grinding and found the back of the net thrice in the third period. Up next for Hart and the Flyers are the Pittsburgh Penguins on Thursday night, a game that won’t feature Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, and potentially Kris Letang.

Hart has found his groove with a much improved team in front of him. He has stolen the show several times during the season and if the Flyers can consistently find the back of the net, they will soar in the Metropolitan Division with the goaltending they’ve received so far. 

Flyers fan born in the heart of Leafs nation, living in Guelph

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