The Flyers do not question Carter Hart's drive or habits.
Head coach Alain Vigneault and his staff have planned for Hart to solely focus on practicing and extra work leading into the weekend. It's an ideal time to employ that strategy for the 22-year-old goalie. The Flyers play the NHL-worst Sabres on Monday and Wednesday, then finally have two days between games before their April slate begins Saturday against the Islanders. Elliott entered Monday 16-2-2 with a 1.67 goals-against average and .943 save percentage lifetime against Buffalo. Hart is not expected to suit up for either of the games in Buffalo as Alex Lyon will dress for both.
When times are tough, Vigneault is an old-school guy that says let's put our heads down and work. Find solutions through hard work. The Flyers want Hart to work hard at practice, work hard with goaltending coach Kim Dillabaugh and not worry about anything else.
It's a way to reset through repetition. That is the Flyers' hope as they mapped out this week for Hart.
"This is not a rest day for Carter, this is a workday for him," Vigneault said before Monday's morning skate. "We were able to have him skate and practice yesterday, we're going to have him skate and stay on the ice and work on his game [today]. Tomorrow is a team practice day, which we hadn't had a lot. I think you could tell the difference when we practiced prior to last game in our game. We were able to work on a couple of things and that definitely showed on the ice.
"He's going to skate today in practice, stay on after, practice with the team tomorrow, stay on after, Wednesday he will do the same thing — he's going to practice and work with Kim after. We're going to stay that way for a little while here. He needs to work on his game, he needs to work harder, he needs work better. I had a good conversation with him and Kim about my expectations about his practice habits and him stopping the puck. We were able to work with him yesterday. Just like our team, everybody benefits from good practices and Carter's going to benefit from practicing here."
Vigneault doesn't doubt Hart's work ethic, nor does the organization. Vigneault even enjoyed a laugh during training camp when he spotted the goalie in the weight room later in the afternoon following a practice and scrimmage. When Vigneault says work harder, he means Hart becoming better through hard work in practice. When he notes practice habits, he means the plan for Hart and Dillabaugh in practice, to hone in on specific areas and have them translate during games. Clearly Hart needs to continue to work on things; he has a 4.04 goals-against average and entered Monday having allowed the most goals in the NHL with 77.
Back on March 10, Vigneault said exactly what he said Monday:
"The ones that work harder, work smarter, don't feel sorry for themselves, push themselves, are the ones that become the best that they can be," Vigneault said then. "And Carter's got to do that; he's not the first player or goaltender to go through a tough time. To improve and get better, you've got to work and he's got to work harder and he's got to work smarter. A lot of times I say, 'Enough meetings, enough video, you've got to work.' That's what Carter's got to do right now."
In many ways, Hart could probably use a vacation of sorts — a time to escape the day-to-day grind of constantly thinking hockey, an opportunity to get away, relax and simply reset mentally. But Hart and the Flyers aren't in a profession that features such a luxury, so grinding away at his craft in practice, behind the scenes, is a good way to reset.
But it's not a question of drive and habits with Hart. It's a question of the best way to help Hart feel and play more like himself again at the toughest position in the game, in a city like Philadelphia.
"He's definitely going to be hard on himself," Shayne Gostisbehere said Monday afternoon. "That's just the type of kid he is, he likes to compete and he wants to be out there, so we know he's going to come back stronger.
"I just know his personality, how he is, his attitude toward playing the game. His preparation is second to none. I'm pretty sure no one in this organization is too worried about the Carter Hart we're going to see next."
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