The Flyers hit the ground running down in Toronto. The first of three round-robin games to decide their playoff seeding was met with plenty of pre-game thoughts. Could the Flyers pick up where they left off? Will neutral ice be a factor? Can Carter Hart find his rhythm quickly? Luckily fans, the answer to all three was an overwhelming ‘yes’.
An emphatic 4-1 win over the Bruins told Philadelphia die-hards everything they need to know. This team is for real. This Coach is for real. This goaltender is for real.
Carter Hart denied 34 shots to earn a win in his first ever Stanley Cup Playoff appearance, becoming the youngest goaltender in NHL history to do so at just 21-years-old.
There was naturally some hesitation surrounding Hart’s playoff debut. It was only a short while ago he was dealing with back spasms and for such a young goalie, the pressure of the playoffs alone is a lot to handle, let alone in such a unique environment. But, like he showed on neutral ice in Prague, in the World Juniors, and just about every other occasion ever, he’s as cold as the ice he plays on.
“I know I’ve been here for a short time but he doesn’t look 21 to me.” Nate Thompson said. “He’s pretty poised, even off the ice. He carries himself well beyond his years. He’s a true pro. He reminds me a little bit of a goalie I used to play with in Montreal and you guys know who I’m talking about. He’s our backbone back there and he was really good tonight for us.”
Hart really didn’t take long to settle, but it was very much sink-or-swim. The Bruins came out swinging, leading the Flyers in shots 7-0 early on. Hart faced a lot of pressure which will have undoubtedly kicked in that killer instinct to blank out every other factor. Facing relentless pressure is when Hart shines brightest, and Head Coach Alain Vigneault also noted another time in the game where that was clinical.
“I loved the way we started (third period) and were playing in there. We had our foot on the gas. We weren’t sitting back. The last five minutes when they pulled their goaltender. They got quite a few shots. That’s when Carter was at his best. Overall, that second and third period were real strong periods on our part.”
“Once you get out there and start playing, the game really slows down.” Hart explained after his scintillating performance. “Obviously it’s a little different playoffs. We don’t have fans. Maybe that make it a little bit different. When the game’s going, when the puck drops, it’s all the same. You got to just prepare and execute and play your game.”
There’s no doubting that Hart will be integral to a successful playoff run, and leading from the back will be pivotal. For Hart to not only start with a win, but to do so in a way that looked cool, calm, and collected, should give fans all the confidence in the world.