97.5 The Fanatic Flyers Roundup: Carter Hart Injury, Morgan Frost & Gators
Can the Philadelphia Flyers survive if Carter Hart is dealing with a long-term injury? They might have to. The 25-year-old goaltender suffered a mid-body injury against the Buffalo Sabres on Nov. 1.
After a strong start to the 2023-24 season, the Flyers have lost three consecutive games and five of their last six to fall to 4-5-1. They’re anxiously awaiting injury news.
Carter Hart Injury
The Flyers had their best stretches of the 2022-23 season when Carter Hart was at his best, and an injury could officially evaporate the early-season momentum they built in 2023-24.
Hart won the Bobby Clarke Trophy as the team’s MVP last season despite a suspect defensive structure in front of him. He started 2023-24 with a 4-3 record in eight starts, a .913 save percentage (SV%), and a 2.52 goals-against average (GAA).
His goals saved above expected (GSAx), considered the most comprehensive advanced stat to measure goaltending, is just below the mean at -.3.
Sam Ersson will take over as the top netminder. His GSAx in 2023-24 is the worst of any NHL goaltender. Three appearances don’t define his abilities, but he has a lot to prove at the NHL level.
The 2018 fifth-round pick showed flashes of excellence in 2022-23 during a stretch in late December and early January when both Hart and Felix Sandstrom dealt with injuries.
John Tortorella typically delegates technical instruction to goaltending coach Kim Dillabaugh. However, the head coach regularly evaluates the way his goalies carry themselves.
“I think he (Ersson) self-evaluates very well. That’s a really important part of a player, their self-evaluation. I think he’s very strict with that, as far as how he feels about himself. I think that’ll get him through it.” -Tortorella
Morgan Frost Back in the Lineup
Frost sat out six consecutive games while the trade speculation flew around and the debates raged. He didn’t sound quite so intense when he spoke about his return to the lineup.
“I don’t want to go anywhere, I think I’ve made that pretty clear. Even in talking with my agent or whoever else it may be, I never had any intention of that. I can’t control what management does, but I obviously didn’t ask for a trade. I don’t want to get traded. I love it here. I love playing here, and I think I can make a big impact here.” –Morgan Frost
The former first-round pick didn’t perform up to the right standard in the first two games of the season, which led to the healthy scratches. He hasn’t found the scoresheet since returning, but he has shown visible improvement.
His bursts of speed as a puck carrier have helped the Flyers generate scoring chances in two losses against goaltenders who’ve played well above average. He even threw two strong bodychecks in a matchup against the Buffalo Sabres.
His increased ice time is also an indicator that John Tortorella is willing to give him additional opportunities to work himself into a bigger role.
Tortorella On Flyers Expectations
The Flyers bench boss knows full well that his team isn’t as talented as some of the Stanley Cup contenders. However, he doesn’t want to encourage a mindset of moral victories during a losing skid.
“I’ve got to be careful in just staying patient and learning from that. Losing sucks. At the end of the night, when you lose, it sucks. I have to be cognizant of where we’re going, where we want to get to, and the process we have to go through.” -Tortorella
The newly-constructed front office trusts the veteran head coach. They look to him as the voice who can stabilize the organization during the pain of a rebuild.
Tortorella spoke after the loss to the Sabres on Nov. 1 about maintaining the right attitude within the room.
“Sometimes, when you think you’re doing okay, you’ve just got to stay with it. That’s a big part of my responsibility right now with some of the players because I think there’s frustration already.” -Tortorella
It’s easier for NHL coaches with lineups loaded with talent to let their players have space. It’s more difficult for the coach of a rebuilding team to find the correct balance between finding positives in losses, correcting mistakes, and encouraging overall continuity while developing young talent that will survive the rebuild.
Let’s see how John Tortorella responds to the challenge.
Emotional Support Alligators
The Phillies turned away an “emotional support” alligator from entering the gates at Citizens Bank Park in the final days of the 2023 regular season.
The Flyers had no problem accommodating the (hopefully?) trained reptile. The gator, whose name is Wally, posed for pictures with Gritty at the Wells Fargo Center on Monday night during a matchup with the Carolina Hurricanes.
John Brazer, Phillies Director of Fun & Games, told The John Kincade Show that the alligator wasn’t an option as a rallying cry for the MLB Playoffs.
The Flyers lost 3-2 to their Metropolitan division rival. If nothing else, they did catch the eyes of some fans who would’ve tuned out otherwise.