Hart Proves to Be ‘Backbone’ Flyers Need in Playoff Debut
Flyers goalie Carter Hart has just 10 days left until he turns 22. For now, the 21-year-old netminder gets to live a dream, starting in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
While this wasn’t the typical playoff experience with the Flyers opening up a Round Robin against the Bruins on Sunday, it was Hart’s first taste of playoff hockey. And just as he has for the majority of the season, he delivered another excellent performance.
From the drop of the puck, the Bruins were generating shots. Hart faced five in the first four minutes. He turned them all aside. He made the routine saves look easy. He kept rebounds to the outside. He calmly tracked the puck and covered in situations where it seemed dangerous.
By the second period, the Flyers had spotted Hart a lead and while the Bruins did get on the board late in the period, Hart had the support he needed to make another mark on Flyers franchise history.
The Flyers went on to win the game on Sunday afternoon, 4-1, and after Hart had faced 20 shots through two periods, he faced just two in the first 15 minutes of the period, it proved to be his best. In the final five minutes, with the net empty for Boston, the Bruins fired 13 shots on Hart. He stopped them all, sealing his first career playoff win and becoming the youngest goalie in Flyers history to win a playoff game.
For the 21-year-old, it didn’t feel all that different, even if this was another game on a big stage.
“Once you get out there and start playing, the game really slows down,” Hart said. “Obviously it’s a little different playoffs. We don’t have fans. Maybe that makes it a little bit different. When the game’s going, when the puck drops, it’s all the same. You got to just prepare and execute and play your game.”
For decades, the Flyers have struggled to find that stability in goal that championship teams have. There has been an endless carousel of goalies that have come through over the years. Could Hart be the answer for the Flyers?
It sure seems like it, especially when you ask his teammates. Nate Thompson is one of the newest and has played on a lot of teams that have made playoff runs over the years. Hart’s maturity and poise in these situations was instantly noticeable to him.
“I know I’ve been here for a short time but he doesn’t look 21 to me. He’s pretty poised, even off the ice,” Thompson said. “He carries himself well beyond his years. He’s a true pro. He reminds me a little bit of a goalie I used to play with in Montreal and you guys know who I’m talking about. He’s our backbone back there and he was really good tonight for us.”
In case you were wondering, that goalie in Montreal made 39 saves in an overtime win on Saturday night. It’s not the first time that Hart has drawn comparisons to Carey Price, and it certainly won’t be the last.
Hart has the ability to carry the Flyers to new heights. With just days remaining until his 22nd birthday, his career is still in the early stages, but that doesn’t mean he can’t start showing signs of what could be ahead for him and his team.
Kevin Durso is Flyers insider for 97.3 ESPN and Flyers editor for SportsTalkPhilly.com. Follow him on Twitter @Kevin_Durso.