Carter Hart

An abnormal NHL season could benefit a young Carter Hart's growing career

An abnormal NHL season could benefit a young Carter Hart's growing career

For the last three or four months, one of the more popular sayings is “the new normal.” Wearing masks, practicing social distancing and modifying behaviors to adhere to public health guidelines have become part of the fabric of our daily lives. As each sport returns to play, there is bound to be a new normal for baseball, basketball, football and hockey. The bottom line is that things that would have once been viewed as abnormal have now become normal.

For Flyers goaltender Carter Hart, abnormal has been all he has known since coming up to the NHL. Hart’s career began as an early holiday gift for Flyers fans. Hart made his debut against the Detroit Red Wings on Dec. 18, 2018, after the Flyers were more than two months into their season. Hart performed admirably in his first season, finishing ninth in Calder Trophy voting for the league’s best rookie and despite missing games because of injury, his rookie season was anything but normal.

Flyers fans and Hart alike were looking forward to the young goaltender’s first full season as the franchise goaltender. Hart was having a good season, especially at home where he was flat-out dominant. Enter COVID-19 and the league pause instituted in early March. Hart spent time at his home near Edmonton, Alberta, during the break, and now is looking at his first NHL playoffs, which are now occurring in late summer, as opposed to “normal” early spring. The list of goaltenders that have dealt with this sort of turmoil and adversity in their first two seasons contains one name — Carter Hart. And I believe this will only benefit him going forward in his career.

Assuming the NHL plan comes to fruition in the way it has planned, that means Hart’s third season will not be a normal NHL season either. While it may be an 82-game slate, as the league has stated it wishes to have, it will be a condensed schedule. If this happens as planned, Hart will have experienced coming up in the middle of a season, having the weight of a franchise on his back, getting injured and dealing with a season interrupted by a pandemic, followed by a condensed season, all before the age of 24. Kids grow up fast, and in Hart’s case, he’s being forced to do so. Thus far, he hasn’t seemed to miss a beat.

If Hart succeeds when play resumes, because these unique circumstances, he will have experienced more in two or three seasons than most goaltenders experience in their entire career. Though his appearance may not suggest it, Hart will be a grown-up goaltender in the NHL.

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Flyers' veterans face toughest challenge yet coming out of hiatus

Flyers' veterans face toughest challenge yet coming out of hiatus

Veterans in any sport are there to lead, through the best of times as well as the toughest. When the NHL returns from hiatus due to Covid-19, it will present a situation that there is no veteran handbook. Nobody has ever seen the situation that awaits the players when they report to their bubble city in preparation for the resumption of the season, but it will certainly test the leadership of the Flyers veterans.

As a whole, the Flyers have a nice mixture of both youth and veteran leadership and I think it has shown in the way this season has played out. Before the pause, the Flyers had a disastrous road trip around the holidays but this served as the turning point for the team, as opposed to their downfall. That’s how you know they have solid pieces in place and it begins with the coach on down. Alain Vigneault is a coach who has been through it all (aside from a pandemic). Vigneault took both the Canucks and Rangers to Stanley Cup Final appearances, but eventually fell out of favor with both of those franchises. He’s been around and that will help.

Take Carter Hart. This is a player who was labeled the future of the franchise before even stepping on the ice. In his first season, he came up to the Flyers but then missed games due to injury. Now in his second season, a pandemic, the likes of which nobody could have ever expected, has made what will be his first playoffs as a starting goaltender a sort of survival of the fittest (or healthiest). Enter Brian Elliott, a player who has been on multiple teams, has been a starter, a backup, a playoff starter, and has dealt with multiple injuries. He has also never dealt with a pandemic, but Elliott is no stranger to adversity and it’s one of the main reasons you sign players like him.

This is the time for the leaders to step up. Claude Giroux, one of the best captains statistically in team history, must be the leader his team needs. Defenseman Matt Niskanen was brought in for his veteran leadership, and that will surely be tested. Sean Couturier, while still a young guy, has experience way beyond his years. These are the players that need to take the team on their back, pave the way for the immediate future and for years to come.

The other aspect of these unchartered waters is the future. Think about this, if the Flyers enter this restart, and do well, the experience gained by this situation could galvanize this group going forward. Next season, if normal Stanley Cup Playoffs were to take place, it would seem like a breeze compared to what is awaiting NHL teams this summer. While everyone focuses on the now, and rightfully so, as teams embark on this unprecedented journey, the groups of players who experience this restart will deal with adversity that has never been experienced in sports. It will be exciting to watch and will be a challenge for even the most seasoned captains, but I, for one, am confident that the Flyers leadership will be there to meet the challenge.

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2019-20 Flyers season grades: Carter Hart

2019-20 Flyers season grades: Carter Hart

The 2019-20 NHL regular season has concluded and the next time the puck drops will officially kick off the race to the Stanley Cup. The Flyers are hungry and ready to battle it out, but that is thanks to the hard work from back in October. 

In an End to End series, NBC Sports Philadelphia’s Brooke Destra, Katie Emmer, Taryn Hatcher, Joe Fordyce and Jordan Hall will be grading players based on individual performances. 

Today we will be looking at Carter Hart.

Destra

If Hart performed on the road like the way he did at home this season, chances are, he’d be in consideration for the Vezina Trophy. That’s a tall task for the 21-year-old goaltender, but it’s clear he holds to potential to win it one day. Am I getting ahead of myself? Probably. But when was the last time we were able to hold this discussion for a Flyers goalie?

At home: 20-3-2, 1.63 GAA, .945 save percentage
On the road: 4-10-1, 3.81 GAA, .857 save percentage

It’s crazy how his home and road numbers differ, almost like it was two separate players — but for someone in just their second year in the league to have such a promising future, it makes up for it. 

If veteran goaltender Brian Elliott didn’t have such a solid season on the road, this would’ve made things much worse for the Flyers and Hart. Luckily, the combination of the two made for some of the best goaltending Philadelphia has seen in years. 

I have to split these grades into two — A+ for home Hart, C- for road Hart.

Emmer

Hart had some ups and downs this season, but mostly ups.

His maturity and mental toughness are far beyond his years as a 21-year-old. When he dealt with adversity, you saw him take responsibility for his mistakes, rarely complain and show a response the next time out. 

That maturity stood out in a different way in January when he suffered an abdominal injury. Hart pulled himself from practice — he knew the importance of his health to the team. He wasn’t trying to play through it and make it any worse than it was. Fortunately, with time and extra care, he recovered quickly. Hart being the competitor he is, that showed he was a complete team player.

The youngest active goalie in the NHL has skill beyond his years as well. His record during the regular season at the Wells Fargo Center was outstanding (20-3-2, .943 save percentage, 1.63 GAA). His record on the road wasn’t as strong, but it ended up working out in tandem with Elliott. Hart had two wins against the Bruins, one win over the Caps, three straight wins over the Rangers and recorded his first career shutout in 2019-20.

Though it wasn’t complete, his performance in his first full NHL regular season deserves an A-.

Hatcher

It’s still pretty astounding to me where Hart is already at in his career considering that just a year and a half ago, the Flyers' front office was concerned about forcing him to play at the NHL level too soon. I mean, he’s still not even 22 years old yet, so it’s completely understandable why that was a concern. But, I think those same people now have to feel that the best-case scenario has played out for Hart. 

Yes, there were some road struggles this year for Hart, and no he’s not taking home the Vezina yet. But, for a player who started his NHL career in the midst of an insane goaltending situation last year and has quickly become the team's No. 1 guy at 21 years old, he’s handled it remarkably well. 

But, let’s take a look at some numbers, shall we? Hart at 21 years old, in his first (somewhat) full NHL season, he appeared in 43 games, went 24-13-3, recorded a .914 save percentage and 2.42 goals-against average. For comparison, I decided to look up Roberto Luongo’s stats at age 21. At 21 years old, Luongo played in 47 games, went 12-24-7, had a .920 save percentage and 2.44 goals-against average. At 21 years old, Carey Price, arguably the best goaltender in the league and Hart's idol, played in 53 games, went 23-16-10 and had a .905 save percentage and 2.83 goals-against average.

With that in mind, I’m giving him an A.

Fordyce 

Hart at home this season was money in the bank. Bruins, Capitals, the fiercest teams in the league, and Hart had the answer at times facing an onslaught of shots. Interestingly enough, Hart has yet to play a “normal” season. He was brought up during the season last year, and the COVID-19 outbreak paused his second season, so we’ll have to wait to see a full season from the Flyers' franchise goaltender, which likely won’t happen next season either because of the return-to-play plan set forth by the league.

The one blip in Hart’s game is his performance on the road needs to improve slightly. Secondly, Hart at times has a tough time rebounding from a shaky start to a game. For example, if he lets in an early goal, or what would be deemed a “bad goal,” he tends to struggle for the remainder of that game sometimes. It’s clear, though, Hart is the future of the franchise, and home is where the Hart is. 

An A- for Hart.

Hall

Hart delivered the NHL's eighth-best goals-against average at 2.42, better than guys like Andrei Vasilevskiy (2.56) and Jordan Binnington (2.56). With a 24-13-3 record, he owned more victories than guys like Sergei Bobrovsky (23) and Ben Bishop (21).

All at 21 years old and in his first full NHL season. Pretty good.

Sure, he wasn't good on the road, but he was impeccable at home, so the disparity in those splits sort of balanced out.

We're going to give Hart an A- because he's already performing at such a young age in a city that has longed for goaltending.

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