Flyers

Flyers-Coyotes observations: An overtime loss to lowly Arizona

Flyers-Coyotes observations: An overtime loss to lowly Arizona

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The Flyers know how to script a Nightmare on Broad Street.

On the eve of Halloween, the Flyers nearly overcame their most uninspiring and lackuster effort of the season before losing, 4-3, to the Arizona Coyotes in overtime Monday.

Defenseman Alex Goligoski scored the game-winner in the extra stanza.

Trailing, 3-1, the Flyers scored a pair of goals in the final minute of the third period with goaltender Brian Elliott on the bench. Jordan Weal scored on a rebound tap-in with 53 seconds remaining in regulation, and Sean Couturier tied it as he flipped a backhand into a wide-open net.

• The victory marked the first for new head coach Rick Tocchet, as the Coyotes had begun the season at 0-10-1, the worst start in NHL history.

• Jordan Martinook, Christian Dvorak and Brendan Perlini also tallied for Arizona. Playing his first game in a year and a half, Coyotes goalie Scott Wedgewood turned aside 28 of 31 shots for the victory.

• Couturier scored his team-leading eighth goal of the season on a feed from Claude Giroux on the team’s first power play of the game in the opening minutes of the third period. Couturier caught Wedgewood leaning to his left and then fired a shot right to put the Flyers on the board. Later in the period, Couturier added his ninth with 16 seconds left on the clock to force overtime.

• It appeared as if the Flyers would have a second opportunity to take advantage of the NHL’s 31st-ranked penalty kill as Arizona’s Luke Schenn was assessed a two-minute minor for roughing. However, after further deliberations, the referees also whistled Jakub Voracek with a double-minor for high sticking.

• Defensively, the Coyotes may have played their best game of the season keeping the Flyers around the perimeter for nearly the entire first half of the game. The Flyers didn’t start to show life until about the final six minutes of the second period.

• Zac Rinaldo, one of three former Flyers on the Coyotes' roster, delivered a big check on Travis Konecny in the second. Rinaldo, who at times displayed a sense of undisciplined aggression during his time in Philadelphia, stayed out of the penalty box in this game.

• Giroux released a quick wrist shot 3:39 into the second period, which was not only the Flyers' best opportunity to that point, but their first shot from a forward in the game.

• Arizona’s Brendan Perlini could have increased the lead to 3-0 but his shot went off the toe of his stick and went wide left of a wide-open net as the Coyotes nearly executed a 2-on-1. 

• The first period was Dave Hakstol’s worst nightmare as the Flyers had very little sustained pressure and looked completely uninspired to play a Coyotes team with an 0-10-1 record. Their passing was some of the worst I’ve seen all season — pucks at skates, little communication and at times trying to make the perfect pass instead of the simple one. 

• The Flyers' first shot on net came nearly 6½ minutes into the game when Ivan Provorov launched a harmless slap shot from the blue line. The Flyers were outshot, 13-3, in the opening period and didn’t have a real quality chance in the opening 20 minutes. All three of the Flyers' shots came from their defense. In other words, the Flyers did not have a single shot on net from their forwards.

• Wedgewood, who the Coyotes obtained Saturday in a trade with the New Jersey Devils, could not have scripted an easier first period.

• On Arizona’s first goal, rookie defensemen Travis Sanheim and Mark Alt were caught on the right side of the ice at the same time. Sanheim stayed right while Alt should have recognized this and stayed on the left side to prevent the backdoor play. Martinook got tangled up with Jori Lehtera on the boards, broke free before Lehtera got up and had a wide-open one-timer on Elliott, who nearly made the save, but couldn’t cover the post in time.

• On Arizona’s second goal, the Flyers had the play covered defensively, but once Oliver Ekman-Larsson’s shot was blocked, Elliott lost sight of the puck and briefly lost track. Once Christian Dvorak had gathered the puck and skated around the masses, he had an easy shot that found the back of the net. If Elliott had tracked the puck, it would have been a routine save as the puck never left the ice. Elliott finished with 30 saves on 34 shots faced.

Lines, pairings and scratches

Forwards
Claude Giroux-Sean Couturier-Jakub Voracek
Jordan Weal-Valtteri Filppula-Wayne Simmonds
Matt Read-Jori Lehtera-Travis Konecny
Taylor Leier-Scott Laughton-Michael Raffl

Defensemen
Ivan Provorov-Robert Hagg
Travis Sanheim-Radko Gudas
Brandon Manning-Mark Alt

Goalies
Brian Elliott
Michal Neuvirth

Scratches: Forwards Dale Weise (healthy) and Nolan Patrick (upper body), and defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere (upper body).

Carter Hart makes more history with 2nd CHL Goaltender of the Year award

Carter Hart makes more history with 2nd CHL Goaltender of the Year award

As Flyers fans eagerly await the Carter Hart era, the 19-year-old made more major junior hockey history Saturday afternoon.

Hart was named the 2017-18 CHL Goaltender of the Year for the second time. He is the first goaltender to win the award twice as the honor wraps up one of the best junior careers ever.

He took home the award in 2015-16, his draft year, and was one of three finalists last season. Owen Sound’s Michael McNiven (Canadiens) won it in 2016-17 over Hart.

In 2017-18, Hart led all WHL goaltenders in goals-against average (1.60), save percentage (.947) and shutouts (seven), and that is counting missed time because of mono and the world juniors. Everett lost to Swift Current in the WHL Final, but to little blame of Hart. The goalie posted a 2.40 GAA and .921 save percentage in 22 playoff games for the Silvertips.

The CHL Goaltender of the Year is the second time Hart has captured history this spring. Earlier this month, Hart became the first goalie to win the Del Wilson Memorial Trophy (WHL top goaltender) three times when he won it for the third consecutive year. He also won the 2017-18 Four Broncos Trophy (WHL MVP). He obtained gold with Canada during the 2018 IIHF World Junior Championships, where he recorded a .930 save percentage in seven games.

With his Everett career over, Hart will be remembered as one of the best goalies in major junior history. He finished his career with 116 wins, a 2.01 GAA, .927 save percentage and 26 shutouts, tied with Tyson Sexsmith (Vancouver, WHL) for the most ever in CHL history (see story).

The Flyers drafted Hart with the 48th overall pick in 2016, making him the first goalie selected. As Hart’s junior career ends, the highly touted prospect will turn pro next season. This week, he joined the Phantoms for the remainder of their AHL playoff run.

As the Flyers’ goaltending continues to be a circus filled with mismanaging, underwhelming performances and injuries, the calls for Hartmania to begin in 2018-19 will only grow louder. But studying how Flyers general manager Ron Hextall has previously handled prospects, it remains highly unlikely that Hart will be a Flyer come October. It should be noted, though, Hextall refused to say whether Hart needed a full season in Lehigh Valley next season, which left the door open, however slightest, for the goalie to earn a spot in The Show in training camp.

A lot would have to fall Hart’s way for that to happen. Hextall is notoriously ultra conservative with his prospects and Hart would have to prove that not only is he NHL ready but that he's also better than one of Brian Elliott or the oft-injured Michal Neuvirth. There is plenty of summer left and how Hextall handles the Neuvirth conundrum may tip his hat on how he views Hart’s readiness.

For now, though, Hart has closed the door on the Everett chapter of his hockey career as the best goalie in the CHL for the second time in the past three years. A fitting end to an otherwise fantastic pilgrimage through the WHL.

“It is hard to say goodbye to Everett, whose fans love their team and have taken us in like family,” Hart told Philly Voice. “I’m taking a little piece of Everett to another place whose fans love their team, Philadelphia. I can’t wait. All I want is a chance to prove myself.”

Are Flyers next? How Carter Hart won over his junior GM

Are Flyers next? How Carter Hart won over his junior GM

Carter Hart approached Garry Davidson with a message.

For that brief moment, Davidson didn't have to answer his phone, hang up and then wonder.

The general manager's decision was made — and by the teenager who sought him out like a 30-year-old pro.

"Had he not come in and pushed those buttons," Davidson said, "who knows what I would have done."

The Everett Silvertips' 2016-17 season had just ended in the second round of the WHL playoffs. Davidson, the team's GM, was fielding trade call after trade call regarding his goalie.

It felt like everyone wanted a piece of Hart's final go-around in junior hockey.

"In the offseason this time last year, I was already being approached by several teams," Davidson said last week in a phone interview with NBC Sports Philadelphia. "'Would you move Hart?' There were probably six, seven teams that came after us. As a GM, I had to weigh everything out to see how it might work out."

Until Hart, the Flyers' exciting goalie prospect, had a word with him.

Hart was an eighth-round Bantam draft pick of Everett at 14 years old before he signed his WHL educational contract at 15. He eventually turned himself into a record-setting junior goalie and wanted Davidson to know he had goals of finishing what they started.

"Carter came to me and said, 'Hey, I'd love to do something here with my team and my teammates,'" Davidson said. "He came in at 15 and didn't play obviously a lot but was around at 15 and then a regular member at 16 when he was allowed to stay here. When he came in and we had that discussion, then I dug in and tried to see what I could do to make us better."

Hart's plea and the circumstances offered revealing aspects of exactly why the 19-year-old has Flyers fans giddily awaiting his arrival. The competition after Hart's services speaks volumes about his ability in net; yet maybe even more impressive was the loyalty to his team and the maturity behind it.

"That's one of the big things that Carter has always been, old for his years," Davidson said. "He's all about doing things, day in and day out, the right way."

Davidson never imagined what Hart ultimately became.

But he saw the makeup.

"I always liked Carter because I thought he was athletic but I always liked his composure," Davidson said. "He played with a confidence and not on emotion.

"We had a pretty good goalie here, so we just signed [Hart] and said he'll be our No. 2 guy. He came in here at 16 and a month in he sat in my office and said, 'You know what, I think I can be the best goalie here and I'm going to prove it to you.' Not in a cocky way, but just in a confident way. And subsequently he went on to do that."

In more ways than one.

The Flyers' 2016 second-round draft pick became the first goaltender to win the Del Wilson Memorial Trophy (WHL's top goalie) three times, while his 26 career shutouts are tied for the most in Canadian Hockey League history. His WHL-leading 1.60 goals-against average and .947 save percentage this season make him a favorite to win CHL Goalie of the Year for the second time, something no netminder has ever done. He also rewarded Davidson by leading the Silvertips to the 2018 WHL Final, where they lost in six games to the Swift Current Broncos.

While all the accolades surprised Davidson, the success didn't. Not with a kid as detail-oriented as Hart, who with time, grew into his body at 6-foot-2, 185 pounds.

"He made a comment in our exit meeting the other day, 'Oh, we went out last night and I really actually enjoyed a double-patty burger,' and a whole bunch of foods that he wouldn't normally eat," Davidson said with a laugh. "Because he takes care of every aspect — his rest, his eats, his diet, his off-ice workouts. But that's Carter."

Hart's game will test the pro ranks in 2018-19 as he turns 20 years old in August. Given the big club's situation, a season in the AHL seems more than likely.

"That's a decision the Flyers are going to make," Davidson said, advising patience. "It's also a decision Carter will make because it'll depend on his performance and what he does between now and the start of the NHL season in October."

Long odds or not, Hart already has one thing going for him.

He knows how to make a GM believe.