When the Hawks visited The Iladelph in November, we documented just what a hellscape filled with suffering and blisters the Flyers goaltending spot has been. It has been a generational problem. At this point your father probably barely remembers Ron Hextall. You have never seen a competent Flyers goalie. You don’t know what it looks like. If you were presented with one, you would be paralyzed by confusion, if not a whole Birdbox scenario.
Could it be in the same year the Bears maybe have found a quarterback, the Flyers have found a goalie?
Carter Hart wasn’t supposed to be here. The Flyers definitely wanted to wait another season before bringing him up from Allentown (though you can’t blame anyone for rushing their escape from Allentown). But as is Flyers tradition, everyone they’ve asked to don the gear for them has either been hurt, bad, or both. We seem to be the only ones who continually point out that Brian Elliot has a terminal case of being Brian Elliot, and yet teams keep diving in. This is what you get. This is a team that actually traded for the broken and lost Cam Talbot. So they had no choice but to turn to Hart.
Hart popped up on the radar for Flyers fans after a simply dominant last season in the Western Hockey League, where over 41 games he put up a .947 SV%. That followed a .927 season where he also backstopped the Canadian World Junior team. Now, the WHL tends to throw up some pretty high save-percentages and defensive stats. It’s the anti-QMJHL. The leader this year has a .936. You’ll recall Mac Carruth putting up a .929 once upon a time, and he landed in the Upside-Down eventually. But .947 is .947, and leading the league in SV% three years running as Hart did turns a lot of heads.
Hart’s numbers in the AHL this year were not impressive, as he only put up a .902 SV%. But then everyone in the Flyers crease caught The Plague, and up he came. And he’s been brilliant. His .919 SV% is top-1o in the league, and it’s not like the Flyers are making it easy on him. Hart has seen just a tick under 35 shots per night. The Flyers are middle of the pack when it comes to scoring chances against per game, and top-10 in high-danger ones. So the volume of shots might be up there, but the quality of them isn’t that bad.
Hart’s .919 ranks 10th in the league overall. His .895 SV% shorthanded is sixth in the league. The signs are clearly encouraging. What does it mean in the long run?
Again, this is Carter Hart, and what has gone on before will have pretty much no influence on him. But the signs are encouraging. In the past 10 years, only 10 rookie goalies have bettered Hart’s .919. That list is: Joonas Korpisalo, John Gibson, James Reimer, Frederik Andersen, Matt Murray, Jimmy Howard, Juuse Saros, Cory Schneider, Jordan Binnington, and Tuukka Rask. Other than Binnington, who’s a rookie this year, all of those have at least been serviceable NHL goalies. Gibson, Schneider, Rask, and Andersen have been Vezina contenders at various points. Murray has two rings. Just below Hart in rookie seasons are Connor Hellebuyck, Corey Crawford, Pekka Rinne, and Petr Mrazek. Only Mrazek is a name that would cause Philadelphians to choke on their wooter-ice.
That’s if you don’t believe there’s some sort of voodoo sign hanging over the Flyers’ blue paint. We tend not to believe in things we can’t see, but this has gone on so long you wonder. This is Philadelphia after all. All the goalies mentioned above had some sort of dip or adjustment period along the way. None of them had to deal with Flyers fans throwing themselves off the upper deck in response or hurling dead pigeons at them. It’s a different place. Patience goes there to die.
Hart has the best chance of anyone to navigate it. But that doesn’t mean it will be easy.
Game #73 Preview Suite