Flyers need to learn the right lessons from 2021-22 meltdown

Flyers need to learn the right lessons from 2021-22 meltdown
Len Redkoles/NHLI via Getty Images

PHT’s “What Went Wrong?” series asks that question about teams who’ve been eliminated from the 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs. Why did this team fall short, and how surprising was that fall? Are there signs that things might go right next season? This series tackles those questions, and more. In the latest edition of “What Went Wrong?,” PHT breaks down the 2021-22 Philadelphia Flyers.

The Philadelphia Flyers weren’t alone in suffering through an awful 2021-22 season. That’s basically what this “What When Wrong?” series is all about.

So, they’re not the only team with problems. The uncomfortable thing about the Flyers, though, is that they don’t seem to be reacting to the failures of 2021-22 in the most promising ways.

They’re not pulling off the Band-Aid and rebuilding like the Ducks. Instead, it feels more like the Flyers view the 2021-22 season as more of a hiccup or blip. While the message can change, Chuck Fletcher and others pointed toward a plan to “aggressively re-tool,” implying a push for a playoff berth next season.

Is that a wise direction after an astoundingly bad 2021-22 season for the Flyers? And, if there’s truly a lane for this to work out, is Chuck Fletcher really the person to guide Philly out of this mess?

Because, make no mistake about it, this was a disaster. And the early signs point to Fletcher doubling down on some of the decisions that doomed the Flyers in 2021-22.

Selective accountability

When Mike Yeo and the Flyers ended Keith Yandle‘s ironman streak with the whimper that is a healthy scratch, it felt tacky. It’s one thing if allowing Yandle to approach 1,000 games played in a row threatened a playoff berth. Instead, the Flyers scratched Yandle long after any playoff hopes were up in smoke.

Now, sure, there’s the argument that playing in the NHL is a right, not a privilege. But it doesn’t exactly feel like accountability gets doled out in fair portions.

Let’s be honest. At this point, Mike Yeo and Chuck Fletcher resemble the management equivalents to fringe NHL players. Even with an interim tag, it was jarring to see Mike Yeo as an NHL head coach again after rarely ascending above the level of “meh.”

And if Chuck Fletcher isn’t merely replacement level as a GM, shouldn’t we have seen something more promising by now? Between his Wild and Flyers runs, he’s been an NHL GM since May 2009.

In that time, his most memorable moves have mostly blown up in his face in ways that evoke Wile E. Coyote. His signature blunder was signing Zach Parise and Ryan Suter to matching 13-year contracts at $98 million apiece. But Fletcher’s taken many big swings over the years, and he’s largely struck out.

You can gain some entertainment thumbing through Fletcher blunders like people used to leaf through bargain bin CDs at record stores. “OK, sure, the case is cracked, but this greatest hits collection has Thomas Vanek’s eventual buyout.”

It would be one thing if those big whiffs were just from the Wild days. Really, it would be refreshing if he learned hard lessons, and nailed his second chance. Unfortunately, it seems like he’s just piling up mistakes.

Look at how the Flyers perceive Rasmus Ristolainen alone, and Fletcher’s stacked investments nearly to the defenseman’s towering height.

Chuck Fletcher’s big offseason gambles went bust

To be fair, not every error evoked a chorus of agonized groans.

When it came to trading for Ryan Ellis, there were obvious risks. He really wasn’t healthy in 2020-21. But there are worse gambles than hoping that Ellis could find his Norris-range-form from a year before.

Whether you chalk it up to bad luck, excessive optimism from medical staffers, or a lack of due diligence, the bottom line is that Ryan Ellis only played four games for the Flyers in 2021-22.

And there really aren’t a lot of excuses for the staggering amount of resources the Flyers sunk into Rasmus Ristolainen. Here’s the quick version.

  • It cost the Flyers a first-round pick, a second-rounder, and Robert Hagg to trade for Rasmus Ristolainen.
  • They also gave up a second-rounder to clear room for Ristolainen by trading Shayne Gostisbehere.
  • Somewhere, you can probably debate Gostisbehere vs. Ristolainen until your face turns blue. But it can’t feel great to ponder the possibility that Gostisbehere was Ristolainen’s equal, or maybe even a bit better, this season.

Don’t take more of the wrong lessons from 2021-22 – or – Flyers should not trade Travis

While it feels unlikely, there’s the chance that the Flyers end up looking smart with their copious investments in Ristolainen. Stranger things have happened. Defensemen can sometimes be tricky to judge.

Again, though, I’d say it’s more realistic that the Flyers fell in love with the idea of Ristolainen. Maybe they were preoccupied with style over results.

Two things are clear:

  1. The Flyers deflected criticisms of Ristolainen’s often-terrible underlying results. In other words, they ignored “the nerds.”
  2. Right or wrong, the Ristolainen extension happened.

Not ideal, but the Flyers can still show that they’re not taking all the wrong lessons from 2021-22. Maybe they just need a simple mantra.

Don’t trade Travis.

Amusingly enough, Fletcher could restore some faith (from me, at least) if he didn’t trade Travis Sanheim and Travis Konecny during the offseason.

In the case of Travis Sanheim, it’s simple. He’s the sort of defenseman the Flyers are tearing a quad to try to get. He’s steady, underrated, and in his prime. Frankly, if perceptions are low on Travis Sanheim, the Flyers might even be able to sign him to a team-friendly extension this summer. They might just ink him before people catch on that the 26-year-old is a hidden gem.

The advice with Travis Konecny is more nuanced. If they’re determined to trade Konecny, fine. But don’t do it now, when his stock is basically at an all-time low.

You see it time and time again. Less-savvy teams sour on a player, trade them for pennies on the dollar, and then everyone has a good laugh on Twitter. Sometimes you can see it coming from a mile away with a talented player whose shooting percentage goes cold.

The Oilers turning Jordan Eberle into Ryan Strome and then Ryan Spooner is a textbook example of such short-sighted blunders.

[What Went Wrong for the Devils this season]

This season, Travis Konecny’s shooting percentage is 6.8%, by far the lowest of his career. It’s almost half of his career average of 11.6-percent. All things considered, his offensive output (13 goals and 45 points in 71 games) could be worse.

For a time, Konecny looked like a star in the making. Now, it feels like he’s dangling on the edge of a trade where the Flyers would sell low.

Is Konecny perfect? No.

Just look at how perceptions can change. Last offseason, the Blues couldn’t find someone to trade for Vladimir Tarasenko. Now, he’s enjoying one of the best seasons of his career.

If Konecny has to (eventually) go, why not let him rebuild his reputation?

The 2021-22 Flyers didn’t look like a team just an offseason away from contending

So, the Flyers should keep calm about certain elements of the 2021-22 season. Yet, the calls for a rebuild weren’t outrageous: this Flyers team was very, very bad.

When you glance at the 2021-22 Flyers using Evolving Hockey’s Team RAPM charts, there’s not much to do except noting where they were bad vs. even worse.

It’s not as though you can just pass this off as a strange fluke.

From 2012-13 through 2019-20, the Flyers rotated seasons where they missed and made the playoffs. During that time, they only won playoff series during one run, and that was the oddball 2019-20 bubble season.

Now it will be two straight seasons where they missed the playoffs, and this time, it wasn’t close. In 2021-22, the Flyers clearly ranked as one of the worst teams in the NHL.

[PHT’s Power Rankings]

How much can that change with coaching? Fletcher’s the person who chose Alain Vigneault, and this isn’t the first time he’s leaned on Mike Yeo. Are we anymore confident Fletcher will choose the right coach than we are that he’ll ace free agency?

Ignore the numbers and the season for a minute. Instead, scroll their team page at Cap Friendly. There are some solid players, sure, and one could picture rebounds/better health from Ellis, Hayes, and so on. Maybe Carter Hart goes on a heater next season.

Really, though, is there much there to make you think the Flyers are an offseason — even a splashy, bold one that evokes the days of Iya Bryzgalov … only successful this time — away from turning this around?

They already burned a great opportunity to speed up what should obviously be a rebuild with their trade deadline decisions. The uncomfortable truth is that the 2021-22 season and larger outlook continue to gesture toward the obvious need for a Flyers rebuild.

If the Flyers truly don’t have a stomach for that, then they better hope that this situation is a lot better than it looks.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

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    Winnipeg Jets: 2021-22 NHL Season Preview

    Winnipeg Jets: 2021-22 NHL Season Preview
    Darcy Finley/NHLI via Getty Images

    The 2021-22 NHL season is coming and it’s time to take a look at all 32 teams. We’ll examine best- and worst-case scenarios, looking at the biggest questions, breakout candidates, and more for each franchise. Today, we preview the Winnipeg Jets.

    2020-21 Season Review

    • Record: 30-23-3 (63 points), finished third in North.
    • Postseason: Swept in second round by Canadiens (after Jets swept Oilers).
    • Offensive leaders: Mark Scheifele (21 goals, 42 assists for 63 points in 56 games).

    • Free Agent Additions: Nate Schmidt (trade from Canucks), Brenden Dillon (trade from Capitals), Riley Nash.
    • Free Agent Subtractions: Laurent Brossoit (Golden Knights), Mathieu Perreault (Canadiens), Mason Appleton (Kraken expansion draft), Trevor Lewis (Flames), Derek Forbort (Bruins), Nate Thompson (Flyers), Tucker Poolman (Canucks).

    Biggest question for Jets

    • Will an improved defense on paper translate to a better one on the ice?

    Since losing Dustin Byfuglien and Jacob Trouba, the Jets defense sunk like a stone. Sometimes, their defense boiled down to hoping Connor Hellebuyck fixed things.

    During this offseason, the Jets made substantial moves to turn that around. They traded for a steady defenseman in Brenden Dillon. The Jets hope they get Golden Knights Nate Schmidt, instead of the failed Canucks version.

    It’s not nice to say that waving goodbye to Tucker Poolman and Derek Forbort is “addition by subtraction.” It could be accurate, though.

    Speaking of additions and subtractions, the Jets also dodged a bullet at the expansion draft. To the Jets’ relief, they avoided losing underrated blueliner Dylan DeMelo.

    [PHT’s offseason trade tracker]

    So, yeah, the 2021-22 Jets look better on defense. At least, they do on paper.

    Truly, the 2021-22 season could be quite the test for longtime Jets coach Paul Maurice. Credit it acumen, a gift for gab, or other factors, but the fellow has a knack for hanging around.

    Of course, one of the common defenses of Maurice’s longevity is that he’s lacked proper personnel. That argument could ring hollow with the 2021-22 Jets.

    Much could hinge on a holdover, and a new face.

    Since Jacob Trouba left town, Josh Morrissey simply hasn’t been the same. Morrissey’s descent parallels the Jets’ defensive dropoff, overall. Consider this SPAR (Standing Points Above Replacement) chart for his career, via Evolving Hockey:

    Winnipeg Jets: 2021-22 NHL Season Preview Morrissey SPAR Evo
    via Evolving Hockey

    And, while one can imagine Nate Schmidt being a shot in the arm, it’s not a guarantee.

    Recent renditions of the Canucks boasted the sort of lousy team defense the 2021-22 Jets hope to avoid. What if Schmidt fares no better with Winnipeg than he did with Vancouver?

    It’s also fair to mention that the 2021-22 Jets’ defense faces some losses.

    Avoiding losing DeMelo was worth it, but Mason Appleton could be missed. And, while Mathieu Perreault’s getting older, he’s still an analytics darling.

    The biggest worry might be that the Jets lost a Connor Hellebuyck insurance plan in Laurent Brossoit. What if, right as the Jets get better on defense, Hellebuyck hits a wall in 2021-22?

    [Jets bet on defense making life easier for Hellebuyck]

    Since 2017-18, Connor Hellebuyck played by-far the most games of any goalie (233). Andrei Vasilevskiy ranks second at 212, and only six goalies played 200+ games. Those weren’t leisurely strolls, either. Hellebuyck easily faced the most shots (7,230), with Vasilevskiy again a distant second (6,630). Only six goalies faced 6,000+ shots since 2017-18, too.

    Ideally, the Jets make life easier for Hellebuyck, who remains dominant in 2021-22. (After all, he’s just 28. And, worries or not, he’s my Vezina pick.)

    Overall, the Jets do look improved on defense in 2021-22. There’s plenty of work to do, however.

    What’s the salary cap situation?

    The Jets enter 2021-22 as a team nudging against the salary cap ceiling. Looking at their roster, there’s an interesting mix of good and bad.

    The good

    • Some core forwards are on very nice deals — especially Nikolaj Ehlers and Kyle Connor, but also Mark Scheifele.
    • All above quibbles about workload aside, Hellebuyck is a steal at $6.1667M. Honestly, it probably deserves more mentions among the NHL’s best contracts. (Also, uh, $6,166,666 sure is an … interesting number.)

    The bad

    • At 35, Blake Wheeler‘s $8.25M cap hit isn’t ideal, and it runs through 2023-24.
    • Morrissey can turn things around; he’s merely 26. Until then, his long-term deal evokes cringe emojis.
    • Bryan Little‘s contract looked bad in 2017, and keeps getting worse.

    The unclear

    • Between Morrissey, Schmidt, DeMelo, Neal Pionk, and Dillon, the Jets are investing almost $25M in cap space on defensemen. None of those five contracts are shorter than three seasons. Overall, it’s an upgrade — but could we be getting lured in by any hint of an improvement, based on just how bad they’ve been? Those investments could look far less impressive if the group trends closer to “meh.”
    • How good is Pierre-Luc Dubois, really? The Jets seek answers in 2021-22, as his $5M salary cap hit expires. He’s a pending RFA, and arbitration eligible. That could become a tricky situation.

    [PHT’s 2021 NHL Free Agent Tracker]

    Credit the Jets for constructing a competitive roster in a market that’s not exactly Bryzgalov-approved. Lesser front offices would ice a roster full of desperate, ugly contracts.

    Still, a lot of this team is locked-in. If the Jets underwhelm in 2021-22, that oulook won’t be as sunny.

    Here’s to the Jets rebounding in 2021-22, instead. Wouldn’t it be nice if a team once on the rise found its wings once more?

    Breakout Candidate

    • Nikolaj Ehlers

    Typically, this is a spot for a younger, less-proven player. But, in Ehlers’ case, we celebrate that critically acclaimed indie band finally topping the charts and selling out arenas.

    The charts don’t just explain that hipster-style love. Frankly, just watch Nikolaj Ehlers. Chances are, his speed and daring will leave you entranced. He aces “the eye test” as much as he racks up robust fancy stats.

    Now we just need the Jets to believe their eyes.

    Last season, he only ranked fifth among Jets forwards in power-play ice time. Even worse, Ehlers only managed the sixth-highest average for ice time overall (16:55). Honestly, some of the Paul Maurice doubt lingers because of a relative reluctance to truly embrace Ehlers.

    Expect those rumblings to turn into a roar. In 2021-22, the Jets and the rest of the hockey world can finally realize just how special Ehlers is.

    (Cole Perfetti would be the more traditional breakout choice, but he may not be a full-time member of the 2021-22 Jets.)

    Best-Case Scenario for 2021-22 Jets

    All of those defensive improvements don’t just boost the Jets in their own zone. Suddenly, Jets forwards don’t have to do so much legwork, and their all-around play improves. Behind a sturdier defense, Hellebuyck removes all doubt that he is the best goalie in the world. With a strong playoff push, the Jets regain their status as a team on the rise.

    Worst-Case Scenario for 2021-22 Jets

    Those defensive changes don’t amount to much. And, this time, Hellebuyck can’t save the day. Years of red flags about all-around play end up being grim, accurate prophecies. Worse yet, a long-standing front office faces no real consequences, and doesn’t learn any meaningful lessons. The Jets miss the playoffs, and don’t even get a high first-rounder for their trouble.

    PointsbetWinnipeg Jets Stanley Cup odds

    +4000 (PointsBet is our Official Sports Betting Partner and we may receive compensation if you place a bet on PointsBet for the first time after clicking our links.)

    James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

    Wild vs. Golden Knights: 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs First Round preview

    Wild vs. Golden Knights: 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs First Round preview
    Getty Images

    Heading into the 2020-21 season, the Golden Knights carried Stanley Cup hopes, while the Wild felt like afterthoughts. Plenty of people who follow the Wild probably would have settled for Kirill Kaprizov living up to the hype.

    Maybe the hockey world’s cooled a touch on the Golden Knights, but they’ve held up their end of the bargain. And, remarkably, Kaprizov’s been even better than we could have imagined.

    The Wild have exceeded expectations in a drastic way, too, and this preview aims to measure their chances against a mighty Golden Knights team.

    WILD VS. GOLDEN KNIGHTS – series livestream link

    Sunday, May 16: Wild at Golden Knights, 3 p.m. ET (NBC)
    Tuesday, May 18: Wild at Golden Knights, 10 p.m. ET (NBCSN)
    Thursday, May 20: Golden Knights at Wild, 9:30 p.m. ET (NBCSN)
    Saturday, May 22: Golden Knights at Wild, 8 p.m. ET (NBC)
    *Monday, May 24: Wild at Golden Knights TBD
    *Wednesday, May 26: Golden Knights at Wild TBD
    *Friday, May 28: Wild at Golden Knights TBD

    Wild – Golden Knights: Stories to Watch

    “Kirill the Thrill” and the no-longer-mild

    Whether they were reaching or missing the playoffs, the Wild haven’t always lived up to their team name — at least in the sense of excitement. Instead, their defensive-minded approach understandably often branded them as “the Mild.”

    While the Wild still usually play good-to-great defense, Kirill Kaprizov’s changed their trajectory. In the past, a casual fan of the sport might see the Wild on the schedule and groan. Now, they’re more likely to flip over to see what golden opportunity Kaprizov might create on any given night.

    Beyond the more practical benefits of the Calder-lock-winger, he’s simply made Minnesota a lot more fun.

    With that in mind, it’s easier to picture the Wild beating the Golden Knights even if the series is played at the sort of hectic pace the franchise historically preferred to avoid.

    “We find that when you play good teams like (Vegas), great teams, you raise up your play a little bit and (we’ve) just had emotional games against them,” Wild winger Marcus Foligno said, via the Athletic’s Michael Russo (sub required). “It’s always been fun (against Vegas). It’s always been back and forth and physical and heavy. So, it suits us well.”

    Wild won season series vs. Golden Knights

    Honestly, in most years, head-to-head series stats don’t mean a ton (personally). When people really emphasize it, there could even be some eye rolls.

    But considering the concentrated nature of this unusual 2020-21 season, it’s worth noting that the Wild went 5-2-1 against the Golden Knights this season. No wonder Robin Lehner was mad when the Avalanche narrowly won the Presidents’ Trophy, denying Vegas what seemingly would be a friendlier matchup vs. the Blues.

    While the Wild enjoyed a surprisingly strong season, the Golden Knights were even better overall. But sometimes matchups just line up, and that might be the case here, setting the stage for an upset.

    How healthy is Vegas?

    Considering how closed-off NHL teams are about injuries (gamblers, take a moment to grumble), it’s almost always difficult to tell just how healthy a team is heading into any postseason. Combine that lack of transparency with a compressed schedule, and health is even more relevant than usual.

    So, things can change quickly. But given the (incomplete) information we have, it sure seems like the Wild might be a bit healthier than the Golden Knights.

    Again, there could be “maintenance day” elements to some of this. Even so, Max Pacioretty and Alec Martinez missed time late in the season. Robin Lehner also wasn’t able to play during a significant chunk of 2020-21.

    Scan Rotoworld’s injury page and you’ll see that Vegas is dealing with a higher quantity and quality of injuries than Minnesota.

    All kinds of pressure

    Being that the Golden Knights are somehow only in their fourth season, it still feels odd to realize that they have such high expectations. Shouldn’t we still be in the honeymoon phase?

    (Then again, Vegas is the land of brisk marriages, some with no honeymoons at all.)

    The Golden Knights stumbled onto a strong team from the start, and they’ve responded during recent seasons. This is a team that’s made all-in-type-moves over the years. Bringing in Mark Stone and Max Pacioretty wasn’t cheap. Some expensive experiments, like the Tomas Tatar trade, really just burned money and picks.

    And, in their recent round of moves, they moved players around like a Rubix Cube to bring in Alex Pietrangelo. If the Golden Knights fall to the Wild, there would be some serious, serious angst. It doesn’t really matter that Minnesota is a formidable opponent.

    One big question for Minnesota: Was it luck?

    For a significant portion of 2020-21, the Wild were a tight defensive team, leaning on Kirill Kaprizov to break open close games.

    Lately, they’ve found some magic on the power play, and also have been shooting at a high percentage. That’s promising, and it indicates that this is a Wild team that finally has some versatility. They can trade punches — whether that means literally, or scoring in bunches.

    But their underlying numbers have slipped.

    Maybe the Wild can haunt the Golden Knights in a familiar way. Vegas has been something of a “volume” chances team (see: Thatcher Demko‘s coronation during the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs), so maybe the Wild can win the quality over quantity battle?

    Still, it’s worth noting that the Wild haven’t looked as hot by various five-on-five measures lately. Vegas might be the team to make them pay if any of that implies Minnesota’s developed some bad habits.

    One big question for Vegas: Will there be goalie drama again?

    The old football adage “if you have two quarterbacks, you have no quarterback” doesn’t truly apply to goalies.

    The 2006-07 Ducks began with Ilya Bryzgalov being dominant, and then Jean-Sebastien Giguere bringing a Stanley Cup home. A decade later, Marc-Andre Fleury himself showed that sometimes a team will lean on two goalies to win it all. In 2016-17, Fleury actually won more playoff games (nine) than Matt Murray (seven) as both goalies were brilliant during the Penguins’ repeat run.

    Heading into the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs, it sure looks like Vegas has two strong options in net.

    Fleury’s enjoyed a resounding rebound season, and might end up a Vezina Trophy finalist. Injuries slowed Robin Lehner for much of this campaign, but he’s still a top performer. (Lehner may also be the goalie that they believe the most in, deep down.)

    File most of these questions under “good problems to have.” That said, if the Golden Knights struggle against the Wild, the situation could rapidly become a headache.

    Wild – Golden Knights series prediction: Golden Knights in six

    Heading into this season, people would be shocked to hear the Wild receive serious consideration to beat the Golden Knights in a 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs First Round series. Yet here we are: Minnesota truly has a chance.

    And not just because of injuries.

    Yet, for all of these doubts, the Golden Knights have, at times, ripped through opponents like a wrecking ball. This should be another fascinating best-of-seven set.

    James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

    The Wraparound: Stars seek to solve Robin Lehner in Game 3

    The Wraparound is your daily look at the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs. We’ll break down Thursday’s NHL playoff game with the all-important television and live streaming information included.

    Check out the NHL Bubble Wrap for details on Wednesday’s playoff game.

    Bruce Cassidy is your 2019-20 Jack Adams Award winner. Julien BriseBois, Lou Lamoriello, and Jim Nill are your finalists for the NHL GM of the Year award.


    Game 3: Golden Knights vs. Stars (Series tied 1-1) – 8 p.m. ET, NBCSN (livestream): After being shutout in Game 1, Vegas responded with a shutout win of their own in Game 2. Robin Lehner returned to goal and had 24 saves, while Paul Stastny, William Karlsson and Tomas Nosek scored all three goals in less than ten minutes in the second period for a 3-0 win.

    The Stars scored with their first shot of the series less than three minutes into the first period of Game 1, but have not scored since. They are without a goal in the last 117:24 of play, taking 48 shots on goal during the drought. Dallas is 5-2 following a loss this postseason. They have only trailed a series once this postseason, going 2-1 down against Calgary in the First Round before winning three straight to take the series in six.

    It was Lehner’s second straight shutout, and he has not allowed a goal in 131:44. Each of his last four wins have been shutouts. His four shutouts lead the league, while seven only five goaltenders in NHL history have had six more shutouts in a single postseason. Only seven goalies in history have recorded three straight shutouts in the postseason, with Ilya Bryzgalov (2006, Anaheim) the most recent to do so.


    This is the first time in the modern era (since 1943-44) that each team has posted a shutout in the first two games of the Conference Finals or Semifinals. It is only the eighth time this has happened in any round of the postseason, and second time this year (Columbus-Toronto in Qualifying Round).

    Only four playoff series have had three shutouts in the first three games, most recently in the 2004 Conference Quarterfinals, when the Islanders and Lightning opened their series with four straight shutouts.

    This postseason, the first team to reach two wins in a series has a series record of 19-1.

    [Full NHL Conference Finals schedule]

    Game 3: Islanders vs. Lightning (TB leads 2-0) – 8 p.m. ET, NBCSN (livestream)

    Carter Hart’s star continues to rise for Flyers

    carter hart
    Getty Images

    The position of Flyers goaltender is one that has a very up and down history. Bernie Parent, Ron Hextall, Antero Niittymaki, Roman Cechmanek, Ilya Bryzgalov, Dominic Roussel — it’s a mixed bag of results for the franchise.

    Carter Hart is the latest entrant into the arena, and so far has given hope that an issue that has dogged the Flyers has been solved. Since making his NHL debut in Dec. 2019, the 22-year-old netminder has made 74 appearances and recorded a .918 5-on-5 save percentage, which puts him 23rd among goalies with at least 70 games played over that span. (That ESSV% also puts him tied for fifth in franchise history.)

    He’s also made a little history along the way becoming the youngest goalie to win his NHL debut since Carey Price in 2007. He was also the first goalie in NHL history to record multiple winning streaks of seven-plus games at the age of 21 or younger and the youngest goalie in franchise history to earn a postseason win and shutout.


    As the Flyers have developed into a Stanley Cup contender in their first year under Alain Vigneault, the pressure to win in Philadelphia hasn’t affected Hart.

    “I just got to do my job,” he said. “That’s what it comes down to at the end of the day. That criteria is just stopping pucks. When it’s time to play the game, that’s all I have to worry about. We got a great crew in front of us that makes my job a lot easier.”

    The first season and a half of Hart’s NHL career has been an education. He’s observed his teammates, seeing how they handle the day-to-day grind of the long schedule and curated his own routine. Most importantly, he’s seen how he needs to take care of his body, especially as a goaltender, in order to be ready for every start.

    Putting in the work

    On the ice, working with Flyers goaltending coach Kim Dillabaugh has accelerated Hart’s development. Dillabaugh came from the Kings organization where he worked with Jonathan Quick as he became one of the NHL’s top goaltenders.

    “Dilly has been great for me and [Brian Elliott],” Hart said. “We have a good relationship on and off the ice. We have good dialogue between all three of us. I think that’s real important between a goalie and coach is that good communication. He does a really good job of preparation and getting ready before practice. Honestly before games, a couple chats. I think it’s really important to have a good relationship with your goalie coach.”

    “That goaltender-goalie coach relationship is a key one in any organization,” said Flyers head coach Alain Vigneault. “There’s no doubt that that one there is a strong one. Carter is a young goaltender that’s working on his game and trying to get better. He’s putting in the time and he’s putting in the preparation. There’s no doubt that rapport, that understanding at what needs to be done between a goalie coach and a goaltender, both with Carter and Brian is obviously there.”

    The work Hart’s put in is paying off. After a strong regular season, aside from a stinker in Game 2 against Montreal that saw him get pulled, he’s been outstanding with a .966 ESSV% in five starts. That 5-0 defeat to the Canadiens was forgettable and the type of game that could stay with some young players. That’s where a lack of playoff experience could be beneficial in this case. Just go out and play. No time for nerves or to let a bad game linger.

    Hart bounced back in Game 3 with a 23-save shutout to give Philadelphia a 2-1 series lead.

    “It’s a good thing that he’s a little too oblivious to some things as a goalie in Philadelphia,” said Jakub Voracek after Game 3. “He’s really strong mentally. He’s a young kid that works really hard. He’s pretty impressive the way he bounces back, even since last year. If he had a bad game, he always came back and he was strong. I think that’s what good goalies do. Sometimes you have a tough night.”

    The Flyers have been strong at bouncing back after losses. The last time they dropped consecutive games was a four-game losing streak in early January. As NBC Sports Philadelphia’s Jordan Hall noted, Philadelphia has followed up their last nine losses with regulation victories and outscored opponents 41-17.

    Hart might be the youngest starter in the NHL, but 79 regular season and playoff games into his career he’s provided stability for the Flyers in a major area of need.

    “He’s a great young goalie. A lot of potential,” said Sean Couturier. “He’s just a true pro ever since he got in. He does a lot of little things right. On and off the ice he prepares himself like a true pro. You can just respect that from a young guy, a young goalie. He’s doing everything he can just to get better.

    Philadelphia leads their best-of-seven series with Montreal 2-1. Game 4 is Tuesday at 3 p.m. ET on NBCSN (livestream).

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    Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.