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2019-20 Flyers season grades: Carter Hart

2019-20 Flyers season grades: Carter Hart

The 2019-20 NHL regular season has concluded and the next time the puck drops will officially kick off the race to the Stanley Cup. The Flyers are hungry and ready to battle it out, but that is thanks to the hard work from back in October. 

In an End to End series, NBC Sports Philadelphia’s Brooke Destra, Katie Emmer, Taryn Hatcher, Joe Fordyce and Jordan Hall will be grading players based on individual performances. 

Today we will be looking at Carter Hart.

Destra

If Hart performed on the road like the way he did at home this season, chances are, he’d be in consideration for the Vezina Trophy. That’s a tall task for the 21-year-old goaltender, but it’s clear he holds to potential to win it one day. Am I getting ahead of myself? Probably. But when was the last time we were able to hold this discussion for a Flyers goalie?

At home: 20-3-2, 1.63 GAA, .945 save percentage
On the road: 4-10-1, 3.81 GAA, .857 save percentage

It’s crazy how his home and road numbers differ, almost like it was two separate players — but for someone in just their second year in the league to have such a promising future, it makes up for it. 

If veteran goaltender Brian Elliott didn’t have such a solid season on the road, this would’ve made things much worse for the Flyers and Hart. Luckily, the combination of the two made for some of the best goaltending Philadelphia has seen in years. 

I have to split these grades into two — A+ for home Hart, C- for road Hart.

Emmer

Hart had some ups and downs this season, but mostly ups.

His maturity and mental toughness are far beyond his years as a 21-year-old. When he dealt with adversity, you saw him take responsibility for his mistakes, rarely complain and show a response the next time out. 

That maturity stood out in a different way in January when he suffered an abdominal injury. Hart pulled himself from practice — he knew the importance of his health to the team. He wasn’t trying to play through it and make it any worse than it was. Fortunately, with time and extra care, he recovered quickly. Hart being the competitor he is, that showed he was a complete team player.

The youngest active goalie in the NHL has skill beyond his years as well. His record during the regular season at the Wells Fargo Center was outstanding (20-3-2, .943 save percentage, 1.63 GAA). His record on the road wasn’t as strong, but it ended up working out in tandem with Elliott. Hart had two wins against the Bruins, one win over the Caps, three straight wins over the Rangers and recorded his first career shutout in 2019-20.

Though it wasn’t complete, his performance in his first full NHL regular season deserves an A-.

Hatcher

It’s still pretty astounding to me where Hart is already at in his career considering that just a year and a half ago, the Flyers' front office was concerned about forcing him to play at the NHL level too soon. I mean, he’s still not even 22 years old yet, so it’s completely understandable why that was a concern. But, I think those same people now have to feel that the best-case scenario has played out for Hart. 

Yes, there were some road struggles this year for Hart, and no he’s not taking home the Vezina yet. But, for a player who started his NHL career in the midst of an insane goaltending situation last year and has quickly become the team's No. 1 guy at 21 years old, he’s handled it remarkably well. 

But, let’s take a look at some numbers, shall we? Hart at 21 years old, in his first (somewhat) full NHL season, he appeared in 43 games, went 24-13-3, recorded a .914 save percentage and 2.42 goals-against average. For comparison, I decided to look up Roberto Luongo’s stats at age 21. At 21 years old, Luongo played in 47 games, went 12-24-7, had a .920 save percentage and 2.44 goals-against average. At 21 years old, Carey Price, arguably the best goaltender in the league and Hart's idol, played in 53 games, went 23-16-10 and had a .905 save percentage and 2.83 goals-against average.

With that in mind, I’m giving him an A.

Fordyce 

Hart at home this season was money in the bank. Bruins, Capitals, the fiercest teams in the league, and Hart had the answer at times facing an onslaught of shots. Interestingly enough, Hart has yet to play a “normal” season. He was brought up during the season last year, and the COVID-19 outbreak paused his second season, so we’ll have to wait to see a full season from the Flyers' franchise goaltender, which likely won’t happen next season either because of the return-to-play plan set forth by the league.

The one blip in Hart’s game is his performance on the road needs to improve slightly. Secondly, Hart at times has a tough time rebounding from a shaky start to a game. For example, if he lets in an early goal, or what would be deemed a “bad goal,” he tends to struggle for the remainder of that game sometimes. It’s clear, though, Hart is the future of the franchise, and home is where the Hart is. 

An A- for Hart.

Hall

Hart delivered the NHL's eighth-best goals-against average at 2.42, better than guys like Andrei Vasilevskiy (2.56) and Jordan Binnington (2.56). With a 24-13-3 record, he owned more victories than guys like Sergei Bobrovsky (23) and Ben Bishop (21).

All at 21 years old and in his first full NHL season. Pretty good.

Sure, he wasn't good on the road, but he was impeccable at home, so the disparity in those splits sort of balanced out.

We're going to give Hart an A- because he's already performing at such a young age in a city that has longed for goaltending.

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A telling game ahead for Flyers vs. Capitals in round robin — with some different looks, too

A telling game ahead for Flyers vs. Capitals in round robin — with some different looks, too

All along heading into the round robin of the NHL's return-to-play 24-team tournament, the storyline was that the Flyers had nothing to lose and a lot to gain.

The latter will ring particularly true Thursday for Alain Vigneault and company at Scotiabank Arena in the Eastern Conference's hub city Toronto.

The Flyers are set to play the Capitals in their second of three round-robin contests (4 p.m. ET/NBCSP). The matchup could be telling and instrumental in the Flyers' hopes of a deep postseason run.

We'll look at that and more in three notables for Thursday:

Making the rounds?

While the 4-1 win over the NHL-best Bruins in last Sunday's round-robin opener was a statement-like performance, a victory over the Capitals would say much more, especially if it's in convincing fashion.

Think about it. During the regular season, the Flyers went 3-0-1 against Washington and outscored it 16-8. Two of those victories were commanding decisions at Capital One Arena — 7-2 on Feb. 8 and 5-2 on March 4.

If the Flyers beat the Capitals again, that would be four wins over Washington this year and three over Boston in nine combined matchups against those two top-three Eastern Conference foes. That kind of résumé would be hard to turn away when trying to decipher the Flyers' status as one the NHL's biggest contenders for the 2020 Stanley Cup.

Oh, and a victory would go a long way tangibly in the Flyers' goals. With a regulation win over the Capitals, the Flyers would secure at least the Eastern Conference's No. 2 seed in the first round of the playoffs. If the Flyers need overtime/the shootout to take down the Capitals, Washington would still be in play for the No. 2 seed because it holds the tiebreaker over the Flyers with regular-season point percentage. If the Capitals knock off the Flyers in regulation, they would leapfrop the Flyers and jump into the driver's seat for a better seed.

No doubt about it, this is a big round-robin game.

Here are the current round-robin standings entering Thursday:

1. Lightning — 2-0-0, four points
2. Flyers — 1-0-0, two points
3. Capitals — 0-0-1, one point
4. Bruins — 0-2-0, zero points

Good deal in net

In a few ways, the Flyers will have a different look against Washington compared to the win over Boston.

Firstly, they'll turn to Brian Elliott in net. It's a fine play by Vigneault. From the beginning of training camp in preparation for the season's resumption, the Flyers had plans to play Elliott during the round robin. It gives the 35-year-old veteran a competitive game before the first round and a potential run through the playoffs in which he could be needed. Elliott also went 2-0-0 with a 2.00 goals-against average against Washington during the regular season, so he's familiar with the Capitals. The Flyers have plenty of reasons to believe in their backup.

"Like we've said throughout the season, we've got a lot of confidence and faith in both of our goaltenders," Vigneault said Wednesday in a video interview. "We've got three games to play in this sort of pre-playoff tournament, so [Thursday], it's Brian's turn. I said that he was going to get a game in and we feel that [Thursday] is the right time to put him in."

Now, Carter Hart could line up very well for another quality tune-up against the offensively dynamic Lightning, a game that should have implications and will continue to test the 21-year-old.

'I'm expecting more'

The Flyers will also look different at forward. There was a good chance the Flyers already had plans to play Joel Farabee in the round robin, but an injury to Michael Raffl during the win over the Bruins made the 20-year-old rookie the obvious choice to fill Raffl's void.

So would Farabee play in Raffl's fourth-line spot? Vigneault has consistently said he wants to put his younger players in positions that best suit their strengths.

In practice Wednesday at the Ford Performance Centre, the Flyers ran these forward lines:

Claude Giroux-Sean Couturier-Jakub Voracek
Scott Laughton-Kevin Hayes-Travis Konecny
Nicolas Aube-Kubel-Derek Grant-Joel Farabee
James van Riemsdyk/Connor Bunnaman-Nate Thompson-Tyler Pitlick

Make no mistake, van Riemsdyk will play Thursday. If he doesn't, it would be extremely surprising and not a good move.

It is interesting, though, to see van Riemsdyk on the fourth line. Vigneault is certainly looking for a greater impact from JVR.

"I thought that James, in training camp in our first phase in Philly, looked extremely good," Vigneault said Monday. "I thought he was skating well, he was making some good plays with the puck. I will say that so far since we’ve gotten here to Toronto in our two games, I’m expecting more. We’ll see here what happens moving forward."

Vigneault will convey these points to his players before stating them to the media. Players have said they appreciate that communication. Vigneault challenged van Riemsdyk and others in November, asking for more from of his big-money players.

Perhaps this is some good internal competition by Vigneault at a time that he can afford to do it. He could be challenging two rookie wingers in Nicolas Aube-Kubel and Farabee to show him what they've got. If they don't respond well, then van Riemsdyk will climb a line during the game and moving forward. Now is the time to audition his younger players in this environment. It's also a way for Vigneault to provide van Riemsdyk a little extra motivation ahead of their first-round series.

The round robin gives the Flyers an opportunity to try some things before the real deal. It looks like Vigneault is doing just that.

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Gritty the Maple Leafs' mascot? This parody account has gone too far

Gritty the Maple Leafs' mascot? This parody account has gone too far

How does one even begin to explain how they're feeling after *this*? 

It seemed like another business as usual day in the good ole’ NHL bubble on Tuesday. Six games between Edmonton and Toronto seemed like the perfect recipe for a grand time … right? 

Well, moments following the Leafs win against the Blue Jackets, something came across my Twitter feed that shook me to my core. I sat in disbelief, unsure what to make of this cursed image in front of me. 

It was a blue Gritty — on an account called @/LeafsGrittyNHL. 

I’m sorry … what? 

As President of the Gritty Committee, this is an outrage. Everyone knows the mascot belongs to the Flyers and while this is clearly a joke — some jokes just aren’t funny. 

Seriously, take a look … it just feels wrong. 

This mystery account even tweaked Gritty’s precious billboard he made for the Flyers in the bubble. 

If the Leafs want a blue mascot so badly, go get Cookie Monster. Gritty is taken. And I’m sure Carlton the Bear — the Leafs’ actual mascot — won’t be too happy about this either. 

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