If you haven’t heard, things have been pretty messy in Philadelphia this season. They’re the only team in the NHL that has fired their GM and coach in 2018-19. It’s been bad…really, really bad. So when the Flyers decided to recall top prospect Carter Hart, many wondered whether or not the team was putting him in position to succeed. But so far, so good.
After the Flyers dropped all four games of their Western Canada road trip, they’ve found a way to win back-to-back games on home ice. Hart has been named the first start in each of those outings. In two games against the Red Wings and Predators, Hart has looked pretty good. He was particularly impressive in Thursday’s victory against Nashville, as he turned aside 31 of 32 shots.
Hart became just the third goalie in franchise history to win their first two starts (Antero Niittymaki and Ron Hextall also managed to do that). And he’s also the seventh-youngest netminder in league history to win his first two games. Impressive.
Late in the second period of Thursday’s game, the Flyers managed to kill off five-on-three man-advantage, and Hart was obviously a big part of that. After the game, Preds forward Ryan Johansen admitted that the rookie goalie left them frustrated.
“We had some good looks,” Johansen said, per NHL.com. “[Hart] made some good saves, made our 5-on-3 look bad. It was frustrating. We came in here at the intermission and we were all frustrated. I think we did a good job of settling down and understanding that we needed to just go out and play a good 20 minutes of hard hockey the way we can, and I thought we competed really hard. Good hockey game, good close game, we just couldn’t find a way.”
The 20-year-old admitted he was nervous before his NHL debut on Tuesday, but he was much calmer heading into his second appearance.
“I could feel it in warmups. I wasn’t as anxious,” Hart said, per Philly.com. “I had a good chat with my sports psychologist [Wednesday]. I was bit overwhelmed Tuesday and just had to bring things back to reality.
“I mean, playing against Nashville, there are obviously guys that are good players and players you’ve watched growing up. But they’re the same as you and me. They bleed when you cut them and all that. So that’s kind of the chat I had [with the psychologist] and I felt a lot more relaxed tonight.”
The question becomes: how long can he keep this up? Clearly, he’s going to lose at some point, but can he help his team get back into the playoff race? As of right now, they’re eight points behind the Penguins for third in the Metropolitan Division (the Flyers have two games in hand).
Taking a look at their upcoming schedule, Philly will play a home game against Columbus on Saturday afternoon before they hit the road for a couple of weeks (they’ll visit the Rangers, Lightning, Panthers, Hurricanes and Predators).
That’ll be a huge test for Hart.
Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.