While the Philadelphia Flyers shouldn’t worry about Carter Hart’s struggles this season, at what point does his play cause concern for the team? Following a stellar sophomore season, the expectations for Hart were set high going into the shortened 2020-21 season, but since then he has done everything but meet those expectations. In a season where the Flyers have struggled immensely on the defensive front, the play of their young goaltender has started becoming worrisome for the team. The young netminder is in his third season.
Hart was expected to be a young superstar goaltender and future of the Flyers from the moment they drafted him. For the first time in a very long time, the Flyers finally had their guy — a goaltender that was going to stand head and shoulders above the rest. A goaltender that was finally going to bring a Stanley Cup back to the city of Philadelphia. But what happened to all of those expectations? Did the Flyers fan base give up on Hart already? Did the team expect too much too soon? It might be too early to predict his success as he is still developing, but his play this season is just flat-out bad.
Hart’s Season so Far
The 22-year-old goaltender was among one of the best goaltenders in the NHL last season, but things went downhill quickly. In 26 games played this season, Hart is 8-11 with a 3.79 goals-against average (GAA) and .872 save percentage (SV%). He ranks among the bottom of the league in goaltending statistics with a minimum of 20 games played. He has lost the last five games he has appeared in and allowed 22 goals. This season has not been what was expected for the Flyers, but having a goaltender who is not playing well helps neither.
Flyers head coach Alain Vigneault sat Hart out for a back-to-back series against the Buffalo Sabres earlier in the season. Vigneault understood the struggles of the season but decided this so his young goaltender could get things right in his head. The team realizes the importance of the situation, but also needs their goalie to put in the work to be better.
“The ones that work harder, work smarter, don’t feel sorry for themselves, push themselves, are the ones that become the best that they can be,” Vigneault said. “And Carter’s got to do that; he’s not the first player or goaltender to go through a tough time. To improve and get better, you’ve got to work, and he’s got to work harder and he’s got to work smarter. A lot of times I say, ‘Enough meetings, enough video, you’ve got to work.’ That’s what Carter’s got to do right now.”
Hart Moving Forward
While the Flyers have had their fair share of struggles with goaltending in recent years, Hart was supposed to solve all the issues of the past. To Flyers fans, the struggles in the net are nothing new, but this time it feels different for everyone. The problem is, the Flyers might have rushed him and put him into a situation that might affect the rest of his career. He probably could have benefitted from another year or two in the American Hockey League with the Lehigh Valley Phantoms. Regardless of where he currently stands, as the starting goaltender in 100 NHL games, he has put up a winning record of 48-37, which is an impressive overall record.
Flyer’s fans and management need to continue being patient with Hart, but cannot just think this is going to magically go away. He needs to continue learning and developing into the goaltender that everyone expects him to be. At the end of the day, he is still only a 22-year-old human being, who just happens to stop hockey pucks for a living. If the Flyers can be patient enough, he will easily be among the top goaltenders in the NHL for years to come.