It had been so long since the Flyers had last tasted victory that injured goaltender Michal Neuvirth had the honors of presenting the player of the game helmet to Carter Hart following his stellar 37-save performance Thursday that snapped the team's eight-game losing streak.
Prior to Thursday, it was Neuvirth who had backstopped the Flyers to their previous victory, a 3-2 win Dec. 23 over the Rangers.
But Hart took it to another level Thursday night as he faced a flurry of shots over the final 10 minutes in preserving a one-goal victory, a 2-1 decision over the Stars (see observations).
"When you have a goalie that's making big stops and has that coolness to him, for whatever reason, you can definitely feel that on the ice,” James van Riemsdyk said. "I would be curious to see what his heart rate gets to because he seems so cool under pressure."
To give you an indication of how much of a difference maker Hart has been in the brief time he’s been in Philadelphia, the Flyers have just two wins this season when they score two or fewer goals. Take a good guess as to who that winning goaltender is.
In fact, Stars captain Jamie Benn made a concerted effort to bombard Hart’s crease just to make sure the 20-year-old could handle the pressure.
“That’s where he was the whole night, just around the net,” Hart said. “I could sense he’s that type of player. He wasn’t really chirping me but saying a couple of things to me to get a reaction. He came up to me the first time and said ‘Good save’ and then next time ‘You’re getting lucky buddy!’ He’s a good player and someone I’ve seen on TV growing up. It’s pretty cool to hear that from him.”
Hart, in his eighth start, has grown up quicker than anyone could have expected as he improved his goals against average to 2.46 with a .920 save percentage.
Whether it’s Brian Elliott, Anthony Stolarz or Neuvirth, it really doesn’t matter who returns from injury. There’s no going back for this kid. The only reason Hart should ever see Lehigh Valley again is for a rehab start and knock on wood, here’s hoping it never comes down to that.
On the same day Hart stood tall and rescued the Flyers from another potential third-period collapse, Sergei Bobrovsky had a meltdown of his own.
The Blue Jackets' superstar goaltender was not with his Columbus teammates for Thursday’s game against the Predators after an “incident” in which Bobrovsky “failed to meet expectations and values” of the organization, according to GM Jarmo Kekaleinen.
If Bobrovsky’s departure from Columbus seemed imminent before this latest episode, then it appears to be a foregone conclusion now. The question moving forward as it pertains to the Flyers is why would Bobrovsky be on their radar with Hart clearly ahead of schedule?
The very reason Bobrovsky didn’t win two Vezina Trophies in Philadelphia was the organization’s overreaction to signing what they believed was a franchise goaltender in Ilya Bryzgalov. What they got in return was a $51 million migraine headache.
For once, let’s stick to the plan.
As good as Bobrovsky has been throughout his career, the last thing the Flyers need moving forward into next season is to be handcuffed with another goaltender with a history of failing to meet an organization’s expectations and values.
Especially, when they have an exceptional talent who’s already exceeding them.
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