Flyers

Just a teenager, Carter Hart already mentally fit for Flyers' future

Just a teenager, Carter Hart already mentally fit for Flyers' future

VOORHEES, N.J. — The last time Carter Hart recalls becoming irritated on the ice, he was 10 years old. He was in his first year of playing goaltender after previously playing forward.

His dad, John Hart, was his coach and his current sports psychologist, John Stevenson, was then his goalie coach. What transpired may have resembled a more PG version of this.

“This one kid kept crashing into my crease,” Hart said, “so my dad was on the bench coaching and he’s just like, ‘Just give it to this kid.’ So I just started blockering him.

“I actually didn’t know to blocker a kid, they consider it a weapon [and it’s] a five-game suspension. So I got a five-game suspension when I was 10 years old.”

Eight years later, Hart finds himself as one of the most anticipated goaltending prospects the Flyers have ever had, perhaps even more than the person who drafted him, Ron Hextall.

There was Pete Peeters in the late 1970s and Pelle Lindbergh in the ‘80s. Hextall, of course, in the late ‘80s. The Flyers’ history of drafting goalies is an urban legend.

Not many swooned over the likes of Dominic Roussel and Neil Little.

Hart is a different breed of goaltender. The Flyers made him the first goalie drafted in 2016 when they selected him 48th overall. He won the CHL Goaltender of the Year his draft year.

Last season, he posted superior numbers but didn’t recapture his crown. Owen Sound’s Michael McNiven won the title. Politics was likely involved. No goalie has ever won it twice.

Still, Hart won the Del Wilson Memorial Trophy as the WHL’s Goaltender of the Year for the second consecutive season and was twice named the Vaughn CHL Goaltender of the Week.

When sports psychologist and an 18-year-old come up in the same sentence, it may carry a negative condonation. Some may trigger the alarms. It shouldn’t, especially for a goalie.

Mental toughness is as essential to goaltending as hand-eye coordination is to hitting a baseball. If any conclusion can be drawn from Hart having one, it should be positive. 

Stevenson is a registered psychologist based in Edmonton, Alberta. He runs Zone Performance Psychology with his wife, Jaci Stevenson, and is a former scout for the Oilers.

The relationship between Hart and Stevenson goes back to when Hart was 10 when he was encouraged by his dad to blocker the kid crashing his crease. Stevenson was originally his goalie coach before transitioning into psychology full-time. Hart describes himself as laid-back whose “energy levels have dropped” in the eight years since. On the ice, he carries a calm demeanor — he doesn’t get mad and doesn’t consider himself to be vocal.

Perhaps some tricks he’s applicated from working with Stevenson, who also works with Washington Capitals goalie Braden Holtby, the 2016 Vezina Trophy winner. As a former goalie coach, Stevenson would try to get in Hart’s head to mess with him, according to Hart, which taught the Sherwood Park, Alberta, native to control what he can control.

“I talk to him on a regular basis,” Hart said Friday of Stevenson. “I’ve learned a lot on the mental side of things. The mental game is huge. It’s probably 90 percent of the position, really. If you believe you can do it, you can. That’s the mindset you have to have, you have to believe in yourself. You really have to believe in yourself and trust everything that you do.”

Holtby has been working with Stevenson since he was 15 years old. The Capitals’ goaltender told The Washington Post in 2015 that he didn’t realize how important Stevenson has been to him in his professional life until his first year away from him.

“That’s when I really found out how crucial that experience I had with him was,” he told the Post. “Kind of take it for granted when it’s right there at your fingertips, and once it’s gone, you have to start doing it on your own. It makes it harder, but you learn it even more.”

While Holtby and Hart share the same psychologist, Holtby isn’t the goalie Hart admires most, though he did call Holtby “one of the most mentally tough guys in the business.” Hart said he’s met Holtby a few times through Stevenson, and Holtby texted him after the 2017 IIHF World Junior Championships. The goalie he models his game after is Carey Price.

“He’s very efficient,” Hart said of Price. “He’s one of the best skaters in the game. He makes things simple and makes difficult saves look easy. I really admire the way he skates. That’s one of the biggest things for me is being a good skater. If you can’t skate, you can’t play.

“You have to be an elite-level skater to play in the NHL. … I think Price is the most elite skater in the league.”

Hart turns 19 on Aug. 13 and is not eligible for the AHL. It’s either one more year in Everett or breaking training camp with the Flyers. “Obviously, it doesn’t happen often for 19-year-old goalies,” he said. That’s his goal, but the numbers game dictates his October destination. Brian Elliott and Michal Neuvirth are the Flyers’ goalies for the next two years.

In 2016-17, Hart posted a 32-11-6 record in 54 games last season with the Silvertips. He led the WHL in goals-against average (1.99), save percentage (.927) and shutouts (nine). He had a shutout streak of 193 minutes and 38 seconds during the record season.

After his season ended in Everett, Hart joined the Lehigh Valley Phantoms during AHL playoffs largely as a third goalie with Anthony Stolarz injured. Then Alex Lyon suffered an injury in Game 2 of their first-round series with the Hershey Bears. Hart found himself on the bench backing up Martin Ouellette for Game 3. The Phantoms rode Ouellette for Games 4 and 5 with Mark Dekanich backing up. Lehigh Valley lost in five games.

Hart never played.

“I thought maybe against Hershey when I backed up, maybe see what happens,” he said.

Hextall drafted his fifth goalie in his fourth draft last month as Flyers general manager, selecting Russian netminder Kirill Ustimenko in the third round. With Ustimenko in the fold, the Flyers now have nine goalies in the organization.

“It doesn’t really matter. It’s just goalie depth,” Hart said. “There’s nothing wrong with having goalie depth because you never know what happens. The position of goaltending can be tough and tough on the body. … It’s a long year. Seventy-two games in the WHL, 76 games in the American League and obviously 82 in The Show.

“It doesn't bother me. Just got to worry about yourself.”

Selfish, undisciplined play dooms Flyers in OT loss to Flames

Selfish, undisciplined play dooms Flyers in OT loss to Flames

BOX SCORE

The Flyers' emotions got the best of them Saturday afternoon, and in turn, they got the best from Sean Monahan.

Monahan's second-period power-play hat trick was the result of the Flyers' selfish, undisciplined penalties, which allowed the Calgary Flames to erase a two-goal deficit and take down the Flyers, 5-4, at the Wells Fargo Center (see observations).

Michael Frolik capped the Flames' comeback, converting on a 2-on-1 chance just 1:18 into overtime.

"It's not deflating — it pisses you off," Flyers head coach Dave Hakstol said, "when things are a little bit within our control at that point in time. They're penalties that could have been within our control. That obviously turned and changed the hockey game drastically."

Defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere was the primary culprit behind the Flyers' lack of discipline.

After a fracas in front of the Flyers' bench that saw Michael Raffl take a stick up high, Gostisbehere was the recipient of an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for yelling at referee Tim Peel. The Flyers successfully killed that two-minute minor and then Gostisbehere was sent back to the box 65 seconds later for elbowing Flames forward Micheal Ferland against the boards.

"I think I was upset overall," Gostisbehere said. "I took it out on the wrong guy. Just wasn't a good team player in that sense on that play — heat of the moment. Obviously, there are no excuses for something like that to happen. I wasn't thinking about my team there. I really let my team down."

"It varies from ref to ref," Brandon Manning said. "In Ghost's case, it was a point to where he was fed up. It wasn't what Ghost said directly. I think it was just a matter of things building up and the time and situation of it."

Monahan didn't score on Gostisbehere's unsportsmanlike penalty, but he did convert on the elbowing call, which completed his first career hat trick. He scored his first goal with Dale Weise in the box for high-sticking and then scored his second goal just three minutes and 44 seconds later, with Manning in the box for slashing and snapping Matt Stajan's stick.

"It's something I've been bad for lately and (what) I've tried to work on is keeping my stick down instead of going after the stick," Manning said. "I was a little surprised he pulled up and kind of backed off and I was just trying to get around him. That's the way it is. They're calling that a penalty now."

While the Flyers' top line has been a three-man show recently, it was the Flyers' No. 1 line that took center stage, as Monahan, Johnny Gaudreau and Ferland combined for four goals on 22 attempted shots, many of which were high-quality scoring chances.

The Flyers, now 8-8-4 and losers of four straight, jumped all over the Flyers with three first-period goals and taking a 3-1 lead after the opening 20 minutes. It also marked the second straight game the Flyers wasted a two-goal lead. Thursday, the Flyers scored two early goals, led for nearly 57 minutes and then watched it vanish in the final minute of regulation in Winnipeg.

"We were outshooting them pretty badly at one point and then the penalties gave them a chance to get back in the game," Sean Couturier said. "We got to be better on the PK, but at the same time, we've got to be more disciplined."

"We kind of just lost our heads there," Wayne Simmonds said. "I think groaning and moaning at the refs, but some of those penalties are penalties. We got to get better. We got to keep our heads and we just got to focus on the play because we had the game and then we let it go."

Radko a no-go
Radko Gudas was unavailable for Saturday's game against Calgary after he elected to have a phone hearing with the NHL's Department of Player Safety following his slashing penalty to the back of Mathieu Perreault's head Thursday in Winnipeg.

Gudas was ruled ineligible and sitting out Saturday's game will be applied to his suspension. According to the league’s collective bargaining agreement, “no decision to issue supplemental discipline is made before the player has the opportunity to explain his actions.”

With Andrew MacDonald still not ready for game action, Mark Alt replaced Gudas in the lineup and played 13 minutes and five seconds.

Another Johnny Hockey homecoming
South Jersey's Gaudreau had a successful trip back home establishing a new career-high nine-game point streak. Gaudreau scored Calgary's first goal on a breakaway, which was his fourth straight game with a goal.

Gaudreau also assisted on a pair of Monahan's power-play goals, giving him a three-point night.

"Yeah, this is a big win for us," Gaudreau said, "especially after the last game we had (an 8-2 loss to Detroit last Wednesday). Some big performers tonight, power play looked good, had a huge kill at the end there in the third and a big goal Frolik, so it was a good team win there."

Flyers-Flames observations: Funk continues despite four goals

Flyers-Flames observations: Funk continues despite four goals

BOX SCORE

Thursday night, the Flyers couldn’t hold on to a third-period lead.

Saturday afternoon against the Flames, they Flyers coughed up a two-goal second-period lead, and Calgary won, 5-4, in overtime. Michael Frolik scored the game-winner from Micael Backlund.

The Flyers have dropped four straight, three by one goal. 

Flames center Sean Monahan scored a second-period power-play hat trick in a span of 7 minutes and 49 seconds.

• Nolan Patrick had a prime opportunity to pick up his second goal of the game in the third period — the rookie got his second tally of the season in the second period — when he collected a loose puck cutting across the crease, he just fired it over the net. This was Patrick’s best game in a Flyers sweater, as he was very active in the offensive zone.

• The Flames' top line had so many quality chances. Right wing Micheal Ferland had a shot from close range that Brian Elliott snared. That top line had 12 shots on net through the first two periods, and for the most part, they were from close range. 

• Travis Konecny had some excellent chances, but his shot has been all over the place the past few games. He had an opportunity to give the Flyers a 5-4 lead, but he shot over the net (again) and hit the glass.

• Patrick looked a lot better than what we saw in the game in Winnipeg, as expected. In the second period, he had a nice backhand feed from his knees to Wayne Simmonds coming down the slot, as Simmonds had his best scoring opportunity in a long time. The Wayne Train’s shot hit Mike Smith right in the midsection.  

• An unfortunate sequence at the 13:45 mark of the second period during 4-on-4 play. The Flyers had a 3-on-2 opportunity when Provorov sent a pass that was a little too far for Patrick. Provorov could have taken the shot himself.

• Johnny Gaudreau almost scored his second goal of the game — the South Jersey native scored on a first-period breakaway — as he read the puck and made a break toward center ice. Ferland recognized it and tried to send a two-line backhand pass to Gaudreau put the pass was behind him and it slid all the way to Elliott. You almost need a free safety back there keeping an eye on the always sneaky Gaudreau.

• The slashing penalty on Brandon Manning was ridiculous. Manning was simply trying to use his stick against Matt Stajan’s to win a puck battle, and Stajan’s stick wound up snapping in two.  

• Elliott made a terrific glove save on Gaudreau, who tried to pick the upper left corner with a wide-open wrist shot. That led to a rebound and no Flyer was there to clean it up. It all started up top when T.J. Brodie faked a shot, forcing Sean Couturier to go to the ice, and from there, the Flyers were all out of position. 

• Not a memorable game for Shayne Gositisbehere. Aside from the first period mishaps described below, he was sent to the box for unsportsmanlike conduct after saying something to the officials, and then went back to the box 65 seconds later when he got his elbow up on Ferland. Two bad mistakes that cost the Flyers two goals. 

• Monahan scored a second-period (power play) hat trick, with his third goal coming on a one-timer from the left circle. Monahan's absolute bomb beat Elliott glove-side high. 

• The Flyers scored on their first shot of the game, as Manning sent a somewhat harmless shot on goal that hit Smith’s shoulder, off the post, off Smith’s back and over the line. Michael Raffl provided the takeaway, creating the turnover and keeping the puck in the zone.  

• Two mistakes by Gostisbehere on one sequence. His outlet pass was picked off by Gaudreau, which led to Monahan’s shot and then "Ghost" failed to pick up Ferland on the back end. Gostisbehere doesn’t appear to be playing with much confidence right now. He had a clear opportunity to skate up the ice with the pick and hesitated, looking for someone to pass to. When he’s playing with confidence, you can see it with the puck on his stick.

• Wonder why 31-year-old Kris Versteeg has played for eight teams and can’t seem to stick around? Dumb, selfish plays like we saw in the first period when he takes an unsportsmanlike penalty on Taylor Leier after the linesman blew the whistle for offsides. Versteeg, obviously upset from a previous incident, took a run at Leier, and it cost the Flames a goal. 

• On the Flyers' power play, they did exactly what they’ve been trying to do over their last five games. Get shots in from the point and hope for rebound opportunities. Smith gave up a bad one on Jakub Voracek’s wrist shot and Couturier continued doing what he’s done all season, camping out in front of the net looking for leftovers. This time, he actually put the puck airborne. 

• Subtle but nice move from Jori Lehtera, who stepped into the faceoff circle and kicked the puck out to Ivan Provorov. Provorov then perfectly placed a shot over Smith’s glove-side shoulder and gave the Flyers a 3-1 lead.

• Couturier almost scored a second goal by nearly converting a backhand on a shorthanded breakaway as he came across the slot he tried to go between Smith’s pads. There was a slight opening, but Smith caught it short side with his right pad and kept it from going in. 

• As he’s been throughout the past four games, Elliott was splendid on a 4-on-3 penalty kill, as he was target practice from Gaudreau, Monahan, Dougie Hamilton and Mark Giordano. Elliott made four saves in a 40-second span.

Lines, pairings and scratches 

Forwards
Claude Giroux-Sean Couturier-Jakub Voracek

Michael Raffl-Valtteri Filppula-Travis Konecny

Dale Weise-Nolan Patrick-Wayne Simmonds

Taylor Leier-Scott Laughton-Jori Lehtera

Defensemen
Ivan Provorov-Robert Hagg

Brandon Manning-Shayne Gostisbehere

Travis Sanheim-Mark Alt

Goalies
Brian Elliott

Michal Neuvirth

Scratched: Radko Gudas (awaiting disciplinary hearing), Jordan Weal (upper body), Andrew MacDonald (IR)