Philadelphia Flyers goaltender Carter Hart is just like his team this season: up and down.
He started the year with back-to-back strong performances against the Penguins, allowing five goals on 67 shots for a .925 save percentage in two games. However, things went downhill after that.
Hart was then pulled in his next start after allowing four goals on 22 shots in less than 29 minutes of action. He allowed four more goals (plus one in the shootout) in his first start in Boston three days later. Given a chance to shake that off, Hart started again two nights later against the Bruins and it went from bad to worse. Six goals and one broken stick later, Hart was on a three-game losing streak after his strong start.
The stick-breaking incident was out of character for Hart. Hell, he even apologized after the game for his actions.
“I regret doing that,” Hart said of the outburst. “It was unprofessional of me to do that there at the end. So I apologize for anyone who saw that. Just heat of the moment.”
But it was understandable. It was an infuriating two-game set in Boston. Even Claude Giroux said that he almost joined Hart in smashing his stick, too.
So, what led up to that point?
I wanted to go back and look at all of the goals that Carter Hart allowed through that Boston game using video and screenshots. How many could he have been better on, and how many was he just hung out to dry on? And of course, there’s always some that fall in the gray area in the middle.
Expected Goals (xG) is a measurement of how often a shot should be a goal based on the location, shot type (deflection, one-timer, rebound, etc), and other factors.
Game 1: 6-3 win vs. Pittsburgh Penguins
Goal 1: Mark Jankowski, 0.147 xG
The first goal of the season against the Flyers was caused by problems that continue to hinder them. Mark Jankowski was left alone in front and was able to easily open the scoring for the Penguins.
The Flyers lost a board battle behind the wall, got out of position, and it cost them.
You can’t really blame Hart for this one.
Goal 2: Sidney Crosby PPG, .803 xG
This one is definitely on Hart. He tried to clear the puck up the center of the ice while on the penalty kill and he got victimized by Sidney Crosby.
Goal 3: Brandon Tanev, .068 xG
The Penguins’ final goal of the game has a few levels of blame.
First, Erik Gustafsson whiffed on the puck. That allowed the Penguins to enter the zone with speed. Then, although the Flyers outnumbered the Penguins in the defensive zone, Jankowski was able to make a backhand cross-ice pass to Tanev. Tanev settled the puck and sniped a far-side shot past Hart.
This is likely a shot that Hart would like to save, but the plays leading up to it are more suspect.
It was a pretty good shot, after all.
If you want to blame Hart for that, so be it, but the mistakes prior allowed the scoring chance to happen.
That was it for the season opener. Three goals allowed on 34 shots against. Hart kept the Flyers in the game and helped them win it.
I’m going to track how many goals each game that Hart should’ve stopped based on the evidence provided. If it is a debatable goal, he will receive a partial goal. It will be kept mostly objective with some room for subjectivity.
For this game, Carter Hart gets full blame for Crosby’s goal and half blame for Tanev’s.
Game: 1.5 of 3 goals
Game 2: 5-2 win vs. Penguins
Goal 1: Sidney Crosby PPG, 0.36 xG
A simple screenshot is enough to explain this one.
Bryan Rust (#17 at the left of the screen) has the puck and is about to pass it to Jake Guentzel (#59) as Crosby creeps toward the backdoor. A quick passing play, even with Robert Hagg getting a piece of the puck, allows an easy goal for Crosby.
Not much Hart could do about that one, just a good play by the Penguins and bad defense by the Flyers.
Goal 2: Brandon Tanev, 0.278 xG
Hagg allowed an easy entry for the Penguins, creating a two-on-one. Hart blockered down the initial shot, but Tanev was right there to jam home the rebound.
Hart maybe could’ve done a better job of rebound control, but he was put in a tough situation. We’ll put half of the goal on him. Nevertheless, this was the last goal he allowed in the game on a total of 33 shots.
Game: 0.5 of 2 goals
Season: 2 of 5 goals
Game 3: 6-1 loss vs. Buffalo Sabres
The Sabres chased Carter Hart in this game after four goals. It was one of his worse games of the season so far.
Goal 1: Curtis Lazar, .043 xG
This is one that Hart wants back.
Philippe Myers was unable to move the puck forward and got beat to the outside, but a backhand shot from that angle should be stopped.
Goal 2: Sam Reinhart PPG, 0.473 xG
A screenshot will do for this one as well.
Reinhart is wide open in the bottom of the circle and scored from a tough angle after the puck skittered through the crease.
The Flyers have had issues on the penalty kill all season long.
Goal 3: Sam Reinhart, .119 xG
Hart failed to knock down the dump in along the boards and the Sabres went to work. Taylor Hall did a great job to send the puck towards the slot, where Jack Eichel lifted a stick and Reinhart controlled the puck.
It’s a shot from a dangerous area, but Hart is going to want this one back. This goal put the Flyers down 3-0 with less than 14 minutes remaining in the second period and gave the Sabres all of the momentum.
Goal 4: Curtis Lazar, .312 xG
Lazar’s second goal ended Hart’s night just a few minutes later, but this one wasn’t the netminder’s fault.
A shot from the point bounced right to a Sabre, who put it between his own legs and the legs of Gustafsson to a waiting Lazar, who easily scored his second of the night.
The only thing Hart could possibly do there is control the rebound, but it was a shot up high that gave him trouble. The defensemen have to be better.
Game: 1.5 of 4 goals
Season: 3.5 of 9 goals
Game 4: 5-4 SO loss at Boston Bruins
Goal 1: Jack Studnicka,.351 xG
The Flyers don’t put on any forechecking pressure, allowing the Bruins to enter the zone with ease and quickly get on the board. David Krejci spins off of Gustafsson and Studnicka beats Patrick to the puck at the net.
Carter Hart made the initial save, but Studnicka got his own rebound for the goal.
That cut the Flyers’ lead in half in the first minute of the third period.
Goal 2: Charlie Coyle, .282 xG
Just a minute after the first goal, the Bruins were buzzing again. The Flyers failed to clear the zone and Charlie Coyle made them pay with a spinning shot.
Based on Hart’s reaction he wanted that one back, but it was a shot from a dangerous spot.
That tied the game at two early in the third period.
Goal 3: Nick Ritchie PPG, .407 xG
After the Flyers retook the lead, the Bruins tied it yet again.
The Bruins found the loose puck and Bergeron sent it to Ritchie, who was all alone in front.
Like most power-play goals against, Hart didn’t have much of a chance on this one.
Goal 4: Brandon Carlo, .013 xG
Yeah, Hart wants this one back. Carlo sent a one-timer on net from the point and it found its way to the back of the net just over two minutes after the Bruins tied it.
Hart’s reaction says it all. The Flyers couldn’t win a battle, but an unscreened point shot needs to be stopped.
The Flyers did come back to force overtime before ultimately falling in the shootout.
Game: 1 of 4
Season: 4.5 of 13 goals
Game 5: 6-1 loss at Boston Bruins
After a frustrating game that the Flyers could’ve won, Carter Hart went right back at it two nights later. Unfortunately, this one was all Bruins.
This was the game that Hart ultimately hit his breaking point. Well, his stick-breaking point.
Goal 1: Patrice Bergeron PPG, .216 xG
The Flyers won the faceoff, but couldn’t win the puck battle to clear the zone. A point shot was partially blocked before being stopped by Hart, but Bergeron found the rebound and put home a backhand shot.
There’s not too much Hart could do there. It is unfortunate, however, that if Hart hadn’t lifted his pad in an attempt to make the save he may have stopped the sliding puck that Bergeron failed to lift.
Goal 2: Craig Smith, .184 xG
The Bruins made quick work of the Flyers in transition. They got the puck off the wall and moved it up ice within two passes for a quick rush.
The initial shot was blocked, but the puck was sent into the slot where Smith put it home for his first as a Bruin and the first of five unanswered goals for the Bruins.
Goal 3: Charlie Coyle, .215 xG
It looked like the Flyers would still have a shot heading into the third period, but Coyle put an end to that with a momentum-changing goal late in the second period. Smith worked the puck off the boards passed Robert Hagg to Trent Frederic, who sent the puck in front to a crashing Coyle. Coyle alertly made a one-handed poke at the puck to beat Carter Hart.
Gustafsson was able to clear the zone, but only barely. That kept the tired Flyers on the ice as the Bruins went in for another rush. Gustafsson then got beat by Frederic’s pass on the goal.
Goal 4: Brad Marchand, .135 xG
This goal shows all of the problems that were plaguing the Flyers early in the season despite their record.
The forwards weren’t able to control the puck in the offensive zone and got caught in deep. The Bruins took advantage of that with a long stretch pass for a semi-breakaway. Luckily, Marchand missed the net. However, the Bruins were still able to score.
Bergeron lifted Gustafsson’s stick with ease to steal the puck and found himself in a 2-on-0 in front with Marchand, who scored into the wide-open net.
Goal 5: Brad Marchand PPG, .047 xG
This goal is on both the defense and Hart.
Marchand was left with plenty of time to pick a spot, but it could’ve been stopped. Hart receives some of the blame, but no Flyer was within 10 or 15 feet of him throughout the entire clip.
Goal 6: Patrice Bergeron PPG, 0.525 xG
The Bruins had already sealed the game up, but they added on another one for good measure.
They moved the puck with ease on the power play and Bergeron deposited the rebound into the back of the net.
Carter Hart can’t be blamed for this one. It was just another one added to the total in a frustrating loss.
On the game, we’ll give Hart blame for one of six goals. Whether it’s Bergeron’s first goal or Marchand’s unscreened shot, it would’ve been nice to have a save.
Game: 1 of 6 goals
Season: 5.5 of 19 goals
A lot of the goals weren’t Carter Hart’s fault whatsoever, but there were a handful that he should have stopped. Nevertheless, Hart has bounced back after that Boston loss in a big way.
He is 3-0-1 with 123 saves on 134 shots for a .918 save percentage in his last four games. Four of those goals, all in the Boston game, were rather unstoppable due to a great play by Pastrnak or people being unmarked in front.
It took Hart a bit to settle in last season with a 2-3-1 record and .864 save percentage in seven October games. However, he followed that up with a 6-2-2 record and .927 save percentage in November. This kid has a good head on his shoulders and is a rock in net for the Flyers. It’s also been a big help to have Brian Elliott as his backup. Elliott has been able to fill in with clutch performances when called upon.
Carter Hart’s uncharacteristic outburst may have been just what he needed to settle in for the rest of the season.