Flyers

Carter Hart wins NHL Rookie of the Month honor

Carter Hart wins NHL Rookie of the Month honor

Updated: 2:55 p.m.

VOORHEES, N.J. — The Carter Hart euphoria just keeps getting better.

On Friday, the Flyers' 20-year-old goalie was named NHL Rookie of the Month for January, an honor he certainly earned and deserved.

Hart, who has breathed life into a 2018-19 season that was on life support, went 6-2-1 with a 2.33 goals-against average and .931 save percentage in nine January starts. Over that span, he led the NHL in saves with 283.

Don't expect Hart, regarded for his maturity and professionalism, to get lost in the award. He hardly cracked a smile Friday at practice and made the distinction about the team.

"Last month has been really good for us," Hart said. "We've won six games in a row now and we just need to keep pushing and take things one game at a time.

"I'm just trying to focus on what we're doing right now. Not trying to focus on anything that has been in the past or anything in the future, just trying to focus on what we're doing right here, right now. And right now, we have to prepare for Edmonton [Saturday]."

The Flyers are riding the longest active win streak in the NHL at six games. Hart has won five of those games, becoming just the 10th goalie ever to record a five-game winning streak before his 21st birthday and the first to do so since Carey Price in 2008, when the Canadiens' netminder went on a 7-0-0 run.

Because of injuries and instability, the Flyers have played seven goalies this season and Hart has been by far the best.

"I don't think there's a team in the league that had to go through that and for what this team has had to go through … it's been a tough haul the whole year having to go through that, and it's not an easy thing to be able to find somebody to come in — and certainly from the minors — and play the way Carter has," Flyers interim head coach Scott Gordon said. "It's great for the organization, it's great for Carter — we just need to keep going in the right direction."

Overall in 14 starts, Hart, the Flyers' 2016 second-round pick, has gone 8-5-1 with a 2.48 goals-against average and .922 save percentage.

"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 about Hart on Jan. 10, the start of the Flyers' best stretch in which they've won seven of eight games. "I would be curious to see what his heart rate gets to because he seems so cool under pressure."

Claude Giroux echoed that sentiment earlier this week.

"You're not supposed to be a 20-year-old and play the way he's playing," the Flyers' 31-year-old captain said. "I don't think he knows how to panic."

Hart pieced together a historic junior hockey career. He became the first goalie to win CHL Goaltender of the Year twice and the first to capture the Del Wilson Memorial Trophy (WHL top goaltender) three times.

The Flyers hope Rookie of the Month is the first of many NHL accolades for the youngster in net.

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2020 NHL playoffs: Phase 2 date set in plan to resume season

2020 NHL playoffs: Phase 2 date set in plan to resume season

The NHL has targeted Monday of next week as the start of Phase 2 in its plan to resume and finish the season.

Phase 2 permits players to return to team practice facilities for voluntary small-group individualized training activities, whether it be on or off the ice.

Below is a statement Thursday night from the NHL:

Beginning June 8 — subject to each club’s satisfaction of all of the requirements set out in the Phase 2 Protocol — clubs will be permitted to reopen their training facilities in their home city to allow players to participate in individualized training activities (off-ice and on-ice). Players will be participating on a voluntary basis and will be scheduled to small groups (i.e., a maximum of six players at any one time, plus a limited number of club staff). The various measures set out in the Phase 2 protocol are intended to provide players with a safe and controlled environment in which to resume their conditioning. Phase 2 is not a substitute for training camp.

All necessary preparations for Phase 2, including those that require player participation (education, diagnostic testing, scheduling for medicals, etc.), can begin immediately. The NHL and the NHLPA continue to negotiate over an agreement on the resumption of play.

Here is the NHL's detailed protocol for Phase 2. Phase 3 (mandatory team training camps) won't happen before July 10, which means the implementation of Phase 4 (resuming play) can occur at the earliest late July, with the beginning of August an option.

The NHL on Thursday also announced further details on the 24-team return-to-play format, which looks good for the fourth-seeded Flyers.

Players and permitted personnel returning to Flyers Skate Zone in Voorhees, New Jersey, could be an important step toward the club finishing its 2019-20 resurgence.

"This is obviously something a little different, but we’ve got a lot of experience," Flyers head coach Alain Vigneault said in late April. "I’m very confident that we can get something together that’s going to be very efficient for the players, very efficient to get our team ready and hopefully that’s what happens.”

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2020 NHL playoffs: Flyers' chances look even better now in 24-team format

2020 NHL playoffs: Flyers' chances look even better now in 24-team format

The Flyers' outlook for the NHL's 24-team return-to-play format appeared to improve Thursday.

The 2020 playoffs will consist of reseeding after every round instead of a bracket style. The NHL and NHLPA also agreed that each round will feature best-of-seven series following the best-of-five qualifying round.

How is this a good thing for the Flyers? As the fourth and final seed in the round-robin tournament, they can only improve their standing, which we already knew. The Flyers have a chance to climb as high as the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference and can't fall any lower than their current spot at No. 4.

But the reward of being the No. 1 seed was uncertain as the league was still determining the whole reseed vs. bracket dilemma. On paper, the top seed would not have been as attractive in a bracket format given it would face the winner of the No. 8 vs. No. 9 matchup no matter what. Now, the No. 1 seed will face the lowest remaining seed to prevail after the qualifying round. So say the 12th-seeded Canadiens upset the fifth-seeded Penguins, the top seed will face Montreal. Whereas in a bracket style, the fourth-seeded club would have benefitted from such a situation by facing the lowest-seeded Canadiens, while the No. 1 seed would face a No. 8 or No. 9 seed.

The Flyers are truly in a no-lose situation. They already have their bye and getting the No. 1 seed means a better matchup now. If the Flyers do well in the round-robin tournament, they climb. If they struggle, they stay put. Not a bad spot at all. And there's no reason they should dislike their chances against the Bruins, Lightning and Capitals.

The bracket style would have made for more parity and drama, particularly in a betting aspect. But the league and its players have also stressed keeping the integrity of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Ultimately, the top seeds should be rewarded for their work in the regular season and be given the best possible matchups.

Here are the East's qualifying-round matchups and seed Nos. 1-12.

No. 8 Maple Leafs vs. No. 9 Blue Jackets

No. 7 Islanders vs. No. 10 Panthers

No. 6 Hurricanes vs. No. 11 Rangers

No. 5 Penguins vs. No. 12 Canadiens

1. Bruins
2. Lightning
3. Capitals
4. Flyers
5. Penguins
6. Hurricanes
7. Islanders
8. Maple Leafs
9. Blue Jackets
10. Panthers
11. Rangers
12. Canadiens

For the timeline of a possible resumption and the decisions still to be made, click here.

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