For Carter Hart, a Sophomore Success Story is What Flyers Need
The first chapter of Carter Hart’s NHL career is sure to be shorter than the ones to come, after playing in 31 games in his rookie season. He’s about to start writing the second chapter of what all of Philadelphia hopes is a long and prosperous career.
The Flyers are hoping for the same this season.
It’s been a joke of sorts over the years to note the Flyers constantly rotating goalie carousel, but the 2018-19 season surely takes the cake. It was more than just the usual suspects of the past few seasons -- Brian Elliott, Michal Neuvirth, Anthony Stolarz and Alex Lyon. There were new faces to the mix too.
Calvin Pickard had a brief run as the Flyers starter of choice. The team acquired Cam Talbot to be a potential mentor for the young Hart, only to use him in only four games before season’s end. Talbot wanted more of a guarantee for starter’s time, and signed with the Calgary Flames in the offseason. Even journeyman netminder Mike McKenna got a start in the Orange and Black.
And then there was Hart, the dubbed savior of the Flyers goaltending problems. Hart was the sixth of the eight goalies to get a start with the Flyers in the 2018-19 season, making his NHL debut on Dec. 18 against Detroit. The Flyers season seemed to turn around from there, as Hart won his first two starts. But there was a stretch at the end of December into early January where the Flyers simply couldn’t buy a win. Hart was in goal for five losses over a stretch where the team lost nine of 10 games.
But Hart was also a central part of an eight-game winning streak from mid-January to early February, in goal for seven of the wins. When the Flyers streak was snapped in a shootout loss to Los Angeles, it was Stolarz in goal, not Hart. Hart’s personal winning streak stretched to eight games.
It was during that time that you saw flashes of what could be to come with Hart. The 20-year-old had the poise of a veteran. His positioning, at times, flawless. His confidence grew with each start and more success.
For teams to be successful in the NHL, it still has to start between the pipes. The Flyers may very well end up resting their hopes on a 21-year-old this upcoming season.
You may think it’s a sure thing that Hart gets the bulk of the starts in the upcoming season. But the Flyers, now under a new coaching staff, aren’t letting anything be assumed. Hart will still have to earn the starting job. That shouldn’t be a problem for Hart, who keeps his sights set on achieving new goals. He wasn’t able to reach the NHL at the start of last season, but it wasn’t long before he was a permanent fixture in an NHL locker room. Now he can earn the first start of the season with the same approach to camp as he had a year ago.
The second chapter of an NHL career always has the potential to be dicey. Hart’s overall numbers and performance as a rookie were certainly impressive, but it was still a small sample size. He’s entering an NHL season and no longer an unknown.
The worry isn’t that Hart will have to endure a sophomore slump. It’s that the Flyers may have to. The Flyers are resting a lot of hope on making improvements this season by having a goalie who can play like Hart did on a regular basis last season. They are hoping that some additions to the defensive core will give the young netminder some assistance around the net, help prevent more clean odd-man opportunities and avoid the shooting galleries Hart had to face last season. They are hoping a handful of offensive changes bring more attention to the two-way game without sacrificing scoring.
But it starts with Hart in goal. Fans love him. Hart has all the confidence in the world in himself to perform. The Flyers certainly need him to. They are resting a lot on his shoulders to be a sophomore success story.
Kevin Durso is Flyers insider for 97.3 ESPN and Flyers editor for SportsTalkPhilly.com. Follow him on Twitter @Kevin_Durso.