On paper the Philadelphia Flyers are off to an electric start. After two games against their most bitter rival, the team lead the NHL in goals, firing 11 past Tristan Jarry. In reality, while the goals have come in waves, the overall play has been sloppier than ideal. The one player keeping the electric offense and slightly sub-par defense glued together has been Carter Hart.
The 22-year-old made 31 saves in both wins over Pittsburgh, with his form in Friday’s matchup being nothing short of stellar.
Hart wasn’t at his best for the entire game. The Pens quickly fired a pair of goals past him in the first period in an instance that many would worry could unbuckle the composure of such a young goaltender. That wasn’t the case, and he went on to stop a further 24 shots as the Flyers rallied to a dominant 5-2 win.
“I thought tonight’s game, there’s no doubt that Carter Hart is the difference.” Head Coach Alain Vigneault said after the game. “I’m not going to apologize for good goaltending. Carter was the difference tonight. I thought in the third period when the game was on the line, we played our best hockey of the night. That for me was a very positive sign.”
Fans were eager to see what Hart played like this season. After a stunning 2019-20 where he amassed a .914 save percentage and a 20-3-2 record at home, he traveled to Toronto post a 9-5 record in the playoffs. The former Everett Silvertips star picked up a pair of shutouts in the process and ranked 3rd among goaltenders with 10+ appearances in both save percentage and GAA. It’s safe to say that his progress is showing no signs of slowing down.
“The scary thing is he can be better as well.” Jake Voracek said in his now infamous post-game press conference. “He made a lot of good stops. I think every single player on our team can be better. Our line didn’t have a really good game in game one. We were kind of getting used to each other. The other lines stepped up. The power play stepped up. This game, it was on and off with some lines. I think we played pretty good as a line. Carter made a couple of good stops, but the scary thing is he can be better, and he knows it, like everyone else on the team.”
It hasn’t taken long for Hart to solidify what was previously a very wobbly goaltender picture in Philadelphia. With Brian Elliott mentoring him every step of the way, the team can finally know that when times are tough and other positions may struggle as the season goes on, goaltending will be the backbone that can keep the team upright.
There is no doubting that Hart is already among the NHL’s finest young talents. Every minor concern or barrier he’s been faced with, he’s smashed through like it’s nothing. The only question that remains is a simple one -just how high is that ceiling?
Photo Cedit: Alex Mcintyre