The Philadelphia Flyers victoriously escaped their Game 1 clash with the Montreal Canadiens on Wednesday night by the skin of their teeth.
After a dominant first period, things started to slip out of control for the Flyers. The Canadiens added pressure on their forecheck and through the neutral zone, making it increasingly more difficult for the Flyers to formulate any kind of offense.
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There was one constant for the Flyers throughout all three periods, and that was Carter Hart. The recently turned
Of the games he’s played, none has been more impressive than his Game 1 shutdown of the Canadiens. Time and time again, Hart has proven he’s one of the league’s most legitimate netminders and that the Flyers should have no problem relying on him throughout the playoffs.
Hart Thriving in the Bubble
It’s no easy feat to come back from four to five months off and be thrust into your first postseason action. In Hart’s case, he’s made it look easy.
He got the Flyers going with a solid two-period effort in the exhibition game against the Pittsburgh Penguins, allowing just one goal on 12 shots, and he didn’t slow down through the round-robin tournament.
Allowing just two goals on 59 total shots in games against the Bruins and Lightning, Hart was instrumental in the Flyers earning the number one seed. His puck tracking has been his most impressive asset to this point, making light work of most direct shots on goal and typically handling redirected or screened shots with ease.
That aspect of his game is going to be pivotal against a team like Montreal, who are known for their tendency to throw anything and everything at the net.
The only real negative to Hart’s game through his postseason starts has been his struggles with containing rebounds in certain situations. When he’s seeing the puck well and negating any chance at a rebound, however, he could very well be one of the best goaltenders still in the playoffs.
Battling With Price
Since the Flyers’ first-round series with the Canadiens became official, the dominating narrative has been the battle between Hart and his childhood idol, Carey Price.
Well, as much as that was just a story heading into the series, Game 1 showed that battle is very much going to dictate the winner. Making 29 saves on 31 shots, including an all-time, highlight-reel stick save, Price’s game was just as impactful as Hart’s.
Hart made 27 saves on 28 shots on goal and looked like a goalie with veteran experience doing so. Even when the Flyers seemingly fell asleep during the second period, Hart stood tall and kept them in the game.
Just one save away from his first postseason shutout, Hart had no real chance saving the one goal against. He was caught out of position after a loose puck found its way to Canadiens’ captain Shea Weber, who fired it into an essentially empty net.
Still, Hart was the star of the show in a relatively quiet night from the Flyers’ offense. Without his dominant showing in net, the team could’ve easily found themselves down a game in the series.
The Weight on Hart’s Shoulders
It should come as no surprise that the Flyers plan to rely heavily on their young goaltender throughout the postseason and beyond. That’s certainly a lot of pressure on the shoulders of a 22-year-old with no playoff
So far, Hart has exceeded the expectations that come with his age, looking composed beyond his years. Since entering the bubble, he’s handled himself expertly against the Eastern Conference’s best teams in the round robin and through one hectic game against the Canadiens.
Hart’s athleticism, focus, and composure in net have proven to be his strong points through his first four games in Toronto. As long as he can remain consistent, the Flyers have a real chance to go far this postseason.
If the Flyers keep getting performances from Hart like the one he gave in Game 1, then they really won’t have much to worry about not just in this series or the remainder of the postseason, but for many years to come.
As a lifelong hockey player and diehard Philadelphia Flyers fanatic, I’ve always dreamed of covering the team I grew up watching. In my work, I try to combine my knowledge of the sport’s intricate and statistical details with my perspective as a passionate fan. Bringing my love for Flyers hockey to The Hockey Writers one article at a time.