By: Jason Myrtetus
The Flyers are 10 games into the season with a record of 5-4-1. They had a wild travel schedule in which they traveled just over 13,000 miles in the first 2 weeks and already have changed time zones 9 times. Started in Prague, came home for a single game and went to British Columbia, Calgary and Edmonton. With so much travel the Flyers needed to survive the early travel grind. Since returning from Prague the Flyers opponent the Blackhawks played 7 straight home games. A big reason the Flyers did survive was the play of their goaltender…Brian Elliott NOT Carter Hart.
Elliott went 3-0 with a 2.02 GAA and a .933 Save % for the last week and earned the NHL 3rd Star of the Week. This is precisely why Elliott was a great choice the Goaltender to play alongside Hart. He is veteran at 34 years old and since the 2011-12 season until now he has a better save % than Jonathon Quick (33), Marc Andre Fleury (34) and Braden Holtby (30). With alI of that said many fans are still concerned about the start to this season that the future ‘Franchise” goalie has had.
Coming into this season Hart had appeared in just 31 NHL games. In his rookie season he performed very well with a record of 16-13-0-1 and had a 2.83 GAA and a .917 Save %. Considering he was backstopping a very young and poor Flyers defensive group makes the numbers even more impressive, not to mention he was a whopping 20 years of age. Hart turned 21 on August 13th. Traditionally goalies don’t make it to the NHL at that young an age. It has been a position that takes more development and adjusting than skaters. of course their have been exceptions. Guys like Tom Barrasso and Patrick Roy. Roy had a decent rookie regular season and caught fire to win the Cup in 1986 posting great numbers along the way in those playoffs. Even high pedigree and top goalie draft picks like Marc Andre Fleury and Carey Price, still 2 of the very best in the game today, had ups and downs as young goalies in the NHL. Fleury was a #1 overall pick in 2003 and Price was the 5th overall pick in 2005.
So the question remains. is it time to worry about Carter Hart just 6 games into his second season at 21 years old? Is the elusive Franchise goalie still a need for the Flyers? The answer to both of those questions is NO!!! Yeah Hart has a 5.85 GAA in his last 3 games and was pulled twice. yeah he has allowed 12 goals on his last 43 shots. And still not time to worry. Here is what I believe the issue is and why not to worry.
Hart is an amazing technical goalie. At 6’2 he doesn’t rely on his size to make saves and by todays standards Hart is on the smaller side of NHL Goalies. He has never been a flashy goalie. occasionally you see saves like the one on Taylor Hall on the 5 on 3 vs the Devils, but that is not the norm. Hart relies on pinpoint technical positioning, precise post integration and play reading abilities. His focus and mental preparation are second to none. He has worked with a sports psychologist named John Stevenson since the age of 12. He still routinely does a mental exercises with something called “Concentration Grids”. His game day routine is rigid. So what the HELL is wrong? I am seeing 2 things in particular that are costing Hart at that HL level right now.
1.Harts angle play is off. It doesn’t take much at the NHL level of being off your angle to hurt you real bad. As I mentioned above. Hart is a goalie who essentially puts his body in the right spot, get to the spot under control and makes you hit him. often times in the logo. When he gets to the spot he is square. What is square you ask? Square or SQUARE TO THE PUCK: The ability to stay lined up with the puck and the middle of the net. The goalie, by rotating shoulders and shuffling, remains square to the puck. This is critical for success. It makes you bigger in the Net and also limits the amount of net the shooter can see. if you are just a little off your angle, and not square, you are going to get beat from spots you normally would not.
2. When a goalie loses confidence and is fighting his game the little things fade. in Harts case it has affected his depth. Hart is not an overly aggressive goalie when it comes to his crease depth. Hart is a B depth goalie which means he plays outside shot attempts at a Base depth. Base depth is essentially with his heals on the top of the crease. In tight Hart is a bit more at a conservative depth which allows him to have to travel less ice on cross ice opportunities. Against the Islanders Hart was a Conservative depth on the Pulock slapshot from the point. When he is confident he would at least be at a Base depth on that shot, especially with limited traffic in front.
On the second goal for the Islanders which Brassard scored Hart was clearly off his angle, giving up too much net on the glove side and to deep in his crease making himself smaller. A confident Hart holds his edges, gets square and challenges Brassard. At points in the game which as sloppy defensively Hart was clearly not physically under his usual control and even flailing a bit.
Here is the good news. All goalies go through rough patches of play. They get through it by simplifying their approach and go back to fundamentals, Hart will do exactly that. This is not a case of the pressure of Philadelphia (the Graveyard of Goaltending) overwhelming Carter Hart. These are adjustments that take place in a season and for a young goalie in particular. Carter Hart is still the Flyers Franchise Goalie of the future.