Carter Hart

Jakub Voracek #93 of the Philadelphia Flyers is congratulated by teammates
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Flyers recover in OT after squandering third-period lead

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Like many NHL teams at this juncture of the season, the Philadelphia Flyers are trying to determine if they are playoff contenders or pretenders.

After learning Carter Hart will be sidelined two to three weeks with an abdominal strain, the Flyers put together an impressive 4-3 win against the defending Stanley Cup Champions in St. Louis.

Jakub Voracek scored a crafty goal at 3:33 of overtime as the Flyers captured their third win in the past four games.

Tyler Pitlick, Michael Raffl and Travis Konecny also scored for Philadelphia while Brian Elliott added 30 saves.

Justin Faulk, Ryan O’Reilly and Alexander Steen scored as the Blues fell for the first time at home since December 7th.

Important Road Victory

The Flyers have struggled on the road this season and have only won 10 games in 25 opportunities and went 1-4-1 on their latest six-game road trip.

After surrendering the opening goal, Philadelphia scored three straight only to allow two in the final period to force the extra session. The Flyers proved to themselves that they can skate with the NHL’s best and can now remember this game when looking for confidence during the stretch run of the season.

With Hart sidelined and other obstacles in their path, the Flyers will need to battle adversity to remain in the Stanley Cup Playoff race.

Blues Home Winning Streak

The Blues have been stellar on home ice this season but failed to set a franchise record by extending their winning streak to 10 after falling in overtime against the Flyers. St. Louis showed its resiliency with a rally in the third period to overcome a two-goal deficit but couldn’t finish the job.

During the nine-game home winning streak, the Blues won each game in regulation as they climbed to the top of the standings in the Central Division. For the Blues to be on top of the most competitive division in the League without Vladimir Tarasenko is extraordinary.

Note: Flyers coach Alain Vigneault passed Mike Keenan for sole possession of 11th place on the NHL all-time wins list for coaches with his 673rd victory.

Scott Charles is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @ScottMCharles.

Flyers’ Carter Hart to miss 2-3 weeks with abdominal injury

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This isn’t the news the Philadelphia Flyers need right now.

The team announced on Wednesday that starting goaltender Carter Hart is going to miss the next two-to-three weeks with a right lower abdominal strain. Brian Elliott will take over the primary goaltending duties during that stretch, while the team also recalled Alex Lyon from Lehigh Valley of the American Hockey League.

Let’s break all this down.

First, this is really bad news for the Flyers in the short-term. While Hart’s overall numbers are probably not what the Flyers had hoped for at this point in the season, he is still the team’s best goalie. The best-case scenario of only two weeks would keep him out through at least the all-star break. The Flyers play four games during that stretch, and it begins Wednesday night in St. Louis against the defending Stanley Cup champions (watch it on NBCSN at 8 p.m. ET). After that, they return home for three games against Montreal, Los Angeles, and Pittsburgh.

If his injury holds him beyond the All-Star break their first two games back are against Pittsburgh and Colorado.

Not exactly an easy schedule for a team playing without its best goalie. They also have two different sets of back-to-backs during that stretch, including tonight and tomorrow against the Blues and Canadiens.

Elliott is mired in a terrible slump with an .843 save percentage in his past seven appearances dating back to the start of December.

That’s going to be a problem for the Flyers because they have already been slipping a bit in recent weeks and find themselves on the playoff bubble. Even with Monday’s shootout win against the Boston (thanks in large part to Brad Marchand’s shootout whiff) the Flyers are just 3-5-1 in their past nine games, with only one of those three wins coming in regulation.

They are currently in a tie with the Columbus Blue Jackets for the second Wild Card spot in the Eastern Conference.

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

Hart, Hayes lead Flyers past Capitals

Carter Hart #79 and Kevin Hayes #13 of the Philadelphia Flyers
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The Philadelphia Flyers responded after a disappointing road trip with a 3-2 win against the Washington Capitals on Wednesday Night Hockey.

Kevin Hayes scored a go-ahead shorthanded goal in the second period, Carter Hart made 26 saves and the Flyers snapped a four-game losing streak.

Nicklas Backstrom and Jakub Vrana scored, but the Capitals’ three-game winning streak came to an end. Braden Holtby added 24 saves.

Home is where Hart is

The young Flyers goaltender has been excellent on home ice and improved to 12-1-2 in 15 starts at Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia.

It is common for an inexperienced goaltender to be more comfortable in his natural surroundings, but Hart does need to take the next step in order to solidify the Flyers goaltending position. In 15 road games, Hart is 2-9-1 with a 4.01 GAA and .850 save percentage.

Hart’s strong play at home is an encouraging sign for his development, but the Flyers need Hart to round out his game to be considered a threat in the Eastern Conference.

Ovechkin still tied with Selanne

The Capitals captain scored twice on Tuesday to tie Teemu Selanne for 11th place on the NHL’s all-time goals list but failed to pass the “Finnish Flash” in the loss against the Flyers.

Alex Ovechkin is currently 211 goals short of Wayne Gretzky’s record of 894 goals and Capitals general manager Brian MacLellan believes he might be able to achieve something that was thought to be impossible.

“Health is obviously going to play a big factor,” MacLellan said on Sportsnet Wednesday. “He still shoots the puck well. As long as he has the shot, and we have a good enough team surrounding him, and our power play stays in the top 10, he has a chance to play for a long time. I think longevity is the key to him.”

Scott Charles is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @ScottMCharles.

It was Hayes, Sanheim time as Flyers overwhelm Rangers

Kevin Hayes and Travis Sanheim enjoyed quite the time as the Flyers beat the Rangers 5-1 on Monday.

The two teams entered the second intermission tied 1-1 thanks to Sanheim scoring with just two seconds left. With that, the Flyers extended their winning streak to four games, and they climbed to third in the Metro.

Philly rattled off four third-period goals to turn a goalie duel into a laugher.

Kevin Hayes heating up

Hayes generated 20 points through his first 36 games with the Flyers, which seems … fine. Fans obsessing over Hayes’ $7.14M cap hit are unlikely to be satisfied with a player whose career-high is 55 points.

Hayes looks better the deeper you delve into numbers, though. Although Hayes slipped a bit compared to his contract year, metrics like his HockeyViz heat map impress:

Hayes has been heating up lately, though, and it had to be satisfying to score two goals against his former team. By scoring twice, Hayes pushed his point streak to three games (3G, 2A) and also has seven points in his last five.

Each goal could land on highlight reels, with his first being the game-winner:

Sanheim time

Like Hayes, Sanheim would like to rekindle some of last season’s magic, as his 2019-20 has been a bit of a setback.

The promising defenseman found a way to be at the right place at the right time twice. His first goal screamed right time in a literal way, as he scored with less than two seconds left in the second period.

Sanheim also put himself in the right place at the right time for his second goal as the Flyers created havoc in front of Henrik Lundqvist. While neither Sanheim nor Hayes managed a hat trick, the fifth goal of the night was special, as Nicolas Aubé-Kubel notched his first NHL goal.

Again, the Rangers stuck with the Flyers for most of Monday. Perhaps Philly can point to this as the sort of game that can remind them of the considerable firepower they have on hand?

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

PHT Face-Off: Pacioretty’s career year; Hart’s strong start

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The PHT Face-Off is back every Monday to break down some of the trends and storylines around the NHL.

Let’s take a look at what’s on tap this week:

Carter Hart has had a good year:

Last week, the Flyers goaltender officially hit the one-year mark in his NHL career, and it’s actually gone pretty well when you consider his age and position. Hart and backup netminder Brian Elliott were splitting starts at one point, but the youngster is now the regular between the pipes for Philly this season.

Those numbers aren’t terrible, especially when you consider how much the NHL has changed over the last two seasons. Offense seems to have gone up quite a bit and point totals are also on the rise. With all that in mind, it’s easy to see why the Flyers are excited about their future when it includes Hart. How long has it been since they’ve had a real difference-maker in goal?

Ryan Strome fitting in nicely with Rangers:

Sure, Strome has had the benefit of playing with Artemi Panarin for a good chunk of this season, but the fact that he’s accumulated 30 points in his first 35 games of the season is still impressive. The Strome’s success looks even better for New York when you realize that all they gave up for him was Ryan Spooner, who’s now playing in Europe.

On the flip side, when you look at his numbers without Panarin, you quickly realize just how good the Russian winger is at making those around him better. Almost all of Strome’s individual numbers drop when Panarin isn’t by his side, according to Natural Stat Trick.

With Panarin, Strome has a 47.39 CF%, a 47.86 FF%, a 61.76 GF% and an XGF% of 48.79 percent. Without him, he has a 43.6 CF%, a 42.91 FF%, a 45.45 GF% and an XGF% of 41.76.

Yeah, those numbers are definitely inflated by a talented linemate, but nobody will really mind if he continues to put up points throughout the season.

• Veterans coming through for Wild: 

Nobody really expected much from the Minnesota Wild this year, but a solid couple of months has them in the mix for a playoff spot heading into the Christmas break. Eric Staal, Zach Parise and Ryan Suter have a lot to do with the teams recent play.

Parise has 16 points in his last 19 contests, Staal has picked up 11 points in his last nine games and Ryan Suter has seven points in his last six games and, oh by the way, he’s averaging over 25 minutes of ice time per game for the season. There’s no denying that the Wild are an aging team and they’re still not likely to make the playoffs, but maybe this group of old timers (no offense) can get them back into the postseason one last time.

This is a stat that dates back to last week, so the numbers have changed a little bit, but look at the balanced scoring they’re receiving and look at the names of the players contributing.

Overcoming the Zucker injury won’t be easy (he’s expected to miss a month). The good news is that the team has activated Joel Eriksson Ek from injured reserve.

Max Pacioretty is playing best hockey of career:

The Golden Knights paid a huge price to land Max Pacioretty from the Montreal Canadiens last fall, as they gave up Tomas Tatar, top prospect Nick Suzuki and a second-round draft pick. Tatar has been solid for the Habs and Suzuki has made quite the impression during his rookie season, but you can’t overlook what Pacioretty has done in his second year with Vegas.

The 31-year-old is on pace to score 32 goals this year, which wouldn’t be a career-high, but he could also surpass the 70-point mark for the first time in his career. Even though Pacioretty is known as a scorer first, he’s found a way to help set up teammates this year. He and Mark Stone have given the Golden Knights another incredible forward line.

He’s heading into this week with 10 points in his last seven games. On top of all that, his CF%, SF% XGF%, SCF%, and HDCF% are all at 55 percent or higher, per Natural Stat Trick.

The fact that he’s no longer playing in a hockey-crazy market like Montreal seems to be helping him.

“I haven’t really thought about it, but that’s kind of my personality. Not really attention-grabbing,” Pacioretty told The Athletic. “You’re never as good as they say you are. You’re never as bad as they say you are, so I try to stay even keel. Good news is right now we’re getting contributions from everybody and we’re winning as a team.”

• Are the 200-minute penalty men back?

Last season, only one player surpassed the 150-minute penalty mark, and that was San Jose Sharks forward Evander Kane. In all, only six players had more than 100 minutes in the sin bin (Kane, Tom Wilson, Antoine Roussell, Ian Cole, Brendan Lemieux and Zack Kassian. Yes, those numbers would’ve been higher had each of those players not missed games, but those are still low totals.

This year, the high-end penalty minute takers appear to be back in find form. Leading the way this season is Erik Gubranson of the Anaheim Ducks, who has 86 penalty minutes in just 33 contests. That puts him on pace for 203. Lemieux is right behind him, as he has 85 PIMs in 33 contests. Kane is right behind both of them with 83 minutes in 35 games.

This is what happens when Lemieux and Gudbranson go head-to-head:

What’s coming up this week?

• The Christmas break runs from Dec. 24 to Dec. 26, but that means we’re loaded with hockey games on Monday and Friday night.
• The World Junior Hockey Championship begins on Boxing Day.

NHL on NBCSN

• New York Rangers vs. Philadelphia Flyers, Mon. Dec. 23, 7 p.m. ET
• Minnesota Wild vs. Colorado Avalanche, Fri. Dec. 27, 8 p.m. ET

Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.