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.
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.
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-.
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.
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.
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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