The Philadelphia Flyers may have lost the game on Saturday night, but it was a big step forward for a key part of their long-term future. Carter Hart returned from his break and put up one of his best performances of the season.
After a miserable March that saw Hart go 2-6-0 with a .815 save percentage and 5.04 goals against average, Alain Vigneault and the Flyers gave the young goalie a chance to reset. Hart did not dress for either of the Flyers’ last two games of the month in Buffalo. Instead, he was given a chance to focus on his game in practice, get a bit of a break, and hopefully come back stronger.
It was only one game, but it’s safe to say that the break worked wonders for Hart.
Confidence is key
Hart went from battling himself in March to battling through traffic and tracking the puck in his first April start. The 22-year-old goalie was tracking pucks well and making glove saves with confidence and flair against the Islanders.
Hart made several strong glove saves on Saturday night, which is the side that teams have been attacking this season.
He had a simple answer when asked about that. “I just kind of track the puck and –– shots over to my glove, I caught ’em. So, it felt good,” he said. “It always feels good when you make a save.”
You could see Hart’s improvement on the ice as he stole a point for the Flyers against the Islanders. He continued to glow in his post-game press conference.
Hart had a completely different demeanor about him while talking with the media. He looked cool, calm, and collected, and was making light-hearted comments about his game. It looks like Carter has his confidence back.
“I got a good week of practice. Got a bit of a mental breather from the game as well. I just came to practice every day, not pouting, just having fun with the boys and competing and battling,” Hart said. “Showing up to work every day with my hard hat and my lunch pail, ya know?” he said with a smile.
It wasn’t just talking about his own game that Hart was more jovial, “Post-in, bar down, can’t get any prettier than that,” he said of Giroux’s “couple of tucks.”
Hart looked like a different person compared to previous press conferences during March. When he was battling himself and off his game, it was evident in his body language both on and off the ice. Now, after a few days to practice and take a breather, he looks refreshed and ready for the home stretch.
The Flyers may not completely turn things around and climb back into the playoff picture, but having a confident Carter Hart is more important to that.
Carter Hart earns well-deserved praise
Alain Vigneault was impressed with Hart in his return.
“He played well tonight. He did what we expect the goaltender to do – is to give your team a chance and he did that,” Vigneault said.
Hart made 22 saves on 24 shots on Saturday night in a shootout loss. The first goal he had no chance on and the second one was a turnover that led to a tricky one-timer from the slot. You couldn’t fault Hart for either.
“Unfortunately, on that first goal that’s a play that we should be able to kill –– take away that pass. On the second goal, pretty good shooter shooting the puck there.”
Hart had a few days off to work on his game and gave a definitive yes when asked if he was ready to return, according to Vigneault.
“It showed in his play tonight,” Vigneault said. “He was determined and he made some big saves at the right time for us.”
Hart may have made only 22 saves, but there were several big saves among those 22.
The Flyers held the Islanders to just 36 shot attempts and 24 shots on goal in 65 minutes of play. However, a lot of those shots were dangerous ones. The Islanders had 24 scoring chances and 18 high-danger chances, according to Natural Stat Trick’s tracking.
Hart stole the Flyers a point, but it wouldn’t have been possible without Claude Giroux. Giroux scored two goals in the third period to tie the game. The captain had praise for Hart after the game as well.
“He made some big saves for us. When we were down 2-0 he made some huge saves to keep it 2-0. Carter looks like he didn’t have a lot of shots but the shots that he faced were quality shots. He was very solid tonight,”
Hart was back looking like his normal self on Saturday night and that’s a great thing for the Flyers.