Flyers

With Ron Hextall fired, does anything change with Carter Hart?

With Ron Hextall fired, does anything change with Carter Hart?

There was a moment during Tuesday morning's Flyers press conference when team president Paul Holmgren took a long pause and a drink from his water bottle.

Holmgren was challenged for not defining the "philosophical differences" between Flyers management and Ron Hextall, and whether one of those differences was Hextall's reluctance to deviate from his plan by making a trade or promoting Carter Hart.

One report by NBC Sports' Pierre McGuire suggested: "there were people in the organization that wanted (Hextall) to bring up Carter Hart now rather than wait, and Ron didn't want to do that."

After not disclosing specifics of the differences, Holmgren touched on what Hextall's firing meant for the 20-year-old goaltender from Alberta, Canada, who has become a folk hero in Philly before he's ever even played an NHL game:

I'm in line with Ron's thinking on Carter Hart. Is there a time during this year where you could bring him up and take a look? I don't know, maybe. But to put him in, we're [24] games into the season, I don't know if we're at that point yet.

It might not appear like a lot, but there is a lot to unpack here, so let's get to it.

'I'm in line with Ron's thinking'

This is refreshing because Hart isn't quite ready for The Show right now, and bringing him up now isn't going to solve the Flyers' immediate goaltending problems. It could provide an instant spark but it could also backfire. The risk outweighs the reward.

It's important for the Flyers to stick to the plan with Hart and avoid temptation. We have to factor in the Flyers' deplorable goaltending history. They absolutely cannot risk rushing Hart.

"Long term, I know our staff thinks a lot of Carter Hart," Holmgren said.

While the Hextall firing signals the Flyers are no longer playing the long game, it's wise that they're still playing it with Hart. For now, that's the direction the Flyers are taking, and it's the right path to walk.

We could still see Hart this season

Holmgren's comments are twofold. Yes, he agrees with Hextall's evaluation that Hart needed AHL seasoning, but the Flyers' president left the door open for Hart to play in the NHL at some point this season. That's an important distinction to make here.

Hart isn't ready for the NHL today but in two months? Who knows. Maybe, as Holmgren said. There could be a time during this season where calling Hart up from Lehigh Valley makes sense.

The 20-year-old could begin figuring out the AHL and start dominating, but he hasn't done that yet. The start to his professional career has been extremely inconsistent.

In 12 games with the Phantoms, Hart has a .884 save percentage and 3.61 goals-against average. Those numbers don't exactly inspire confidence that Hart can swim in the NHL right now.

But once Hart gets more AHL games under his belt, things could change. The Flyers absolutely should not rule calling Hart up this season, and it appears Hextall didn't completely close the door either.

"I think Ron was along those same lines — maybe," Holmgren said.

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Flyers, Sixers and Phillies games easily on your device.

More on the Flyers

NHL playoff picture: Flyers still knocking on the door

NHL playoff picture: Flyers still knocking on the door

The Flyers aren’t riding on the rims just yet. They pumped a little air in their tires Thursday night after completing a season sweep of the Chicago Blackhawks.

Despite earning two points, the Flyers actually gained a point on the second wild-card team, as the Canadiens leapfrogged the Columbus Blue Jackets, who have lost three straight games.

Wild-card standings

Carolina: 40-26-7, 87 pts, 9 GR
Montreal: 39-28-7, 85 pts, 8 GR
———
Columbus: 40-30-4, 84 pts, 8 GR
Philadelphia: 35-29-8, 80 pts, 8 GR

Thursday’s games

PHI: W 3-1 at Chicago
CAR: L 6-3 vs. Tampa Bay
MTL: W 4-0 vs. NY Islanders
CBJ: L 4-1 at Edmonton

• James van Riemsdyk continued his red-hot play with the go-ahead goal midway through the third period to lift the Flyers over the Blackhawks. JVR is tied with Edmonton’s Leon Draisaitl with the most goals (20) in the NHL since Jan. 7. It was also his fourth game-winner over that span.

• The storm surge in Carolina was the Lightning’s high-powered offense as Tampa Bay scored four unanswered third-period goals. Forward Nikita Kucherov became the first player since Pittsburgh’s Sidney Crosby in 2006-07 to top 120 points in a single season.

• Goaltender Carey Price stopped all 28 Islanders shots for his 44th career shutout while former Flyer Jordan Weal added a goal with an assist as the Canadiens blanked the Islanders. Montreal now sits in the playoff driver’s seat.

• The Oilers broke open a 1-1 game in the third period with three unanswered goals as the NHL’s hottest player, Leon Draisaitl, continued his torrid pace with his 300th career point, adding three assists.

What are the odds?

According to Sports Club Stats, the Flyers saw a slight climb in their playoff percentage up to 1.6 percent. The closer they inch to Montreal, the greater that number will jump as the Canadiens moved up 20 percentage points after overtaking Columbus in the standings.

The website Money Puck has the Flyers' odds at 1.7 percent.

What lies ahead?

The Flyers have the first of two weekend back-to-backs as they host the New York Islanders Saturday afternoon, looking to beat the Isles for the third time this month with another meeting against the Washington Capitals Sunday afternoon in D.C.

The Canadiens have a back-to-back as well hosting the Sabres Saturday with a game at Carolina on Sunday.

On the verge of being swept, the Blue Jackets can’t wait to wrap up their Western Canadian road swing with two full days off between games.

Strength of schedule

According to PlayoffStatus.com, with eight games remaining, the Flyers' schedule isn’t nearly as grinding. Philadelphia now has the 13th-toughest schedule but will play five games over the final nine days in March.

Blue Jackets: 9th
Canadiens: 10th
Hurricanes: 21st

Interestingly, the Flyers can pull within a tie of the Blue Jackets with a weekend sweep of the Islanders and Capitals before the Jackets' next game in Vancouver Sunday night.

Flyers' Carter Hart matches an NHL accolade not seen in 32 years

Flyers' Carter Hart matches an NHL accolade not seen in 32 years

CHICAGO — Carter Hart continues to turn back the clock.

Just last month, the Flyers' rookie netminder matched Jocelyn Thibault’s rookie record with eight straight victories before the age of 21, a record established back in 1995.

Thursday against the Blackhawks, Hart may have done himself one better. 

Hart’s 40-save performance in a 3-1 win at the United Center was another gem in his rookie season and marked the first time in 32 years that a rookie goaltender had three winning performances of making 40 saves or more while allowing one goal or less (see observations). Boston’s Bill Ranford was the last goalie to do that prior to Hart Thursday night.

Here's how Hart did it:

• March 21 at Chicago, W 3-1, 40 saves
• March 17 at Pittsburgh, W 2-1, 41 saves
• Feb. 4 vs. Vancouver, W 2-1, 41 saves

Hart is also 7-0 during games in which he’s been forced to make 37 or more saves, and certainly the volume of shots Hart has been subjected to is an element general manager Chuck Fletcher and the Flyers will want to address in the offseason.

However, the Chicago Blackhawks didn’t want to give Hart too much credit for the victory.

“I think he made some pretty good stops,” Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews said. “I think we had a lot of opportunities in the second and third, but yeah, I give him credit — he played pretty well.” 

Since losing three straight games, and getting pulled in the first period in two of the losses, Hart has regained his composure and appears to be locked in with a .966 save percentage over his last three starts. Moreover, it shows the maturity and intelligence of a young player in a position that can be quite demanding. 

“I’m just trying to worry about things one day at a time and worry about the present moment,” Hart said. “The past is in the past and you don’t want to dwell on it. I think for me, I just have to live in the present moment whether I’m at the rink or at home. Just focus on what I’m doing and not get ahead of myself, or dwelling on the past.”

Right now, Hart is merely rewriting the past. 

Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Flyers, Sixers and Phillies games easily on your device.

More on the Flyers