Carter Hart has to use the bitter disappointment of this year as fuel to strive for true greatness.
There is no way to put a positive spin on the 2020-21 NHL season for the Philadelphia Flyers who are officially out of Playoff contention, and there’s also no way to look at Carter Hart’s year as anything less than a huge letdown either.
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Big things were expected of both Hart and the young, resurgent Flyers heading into this season with the team from the City of Brotherly Love expected to be a legit Stanley Cup contender thanks to a talented roster loaded with skill, speed and a perfect blend of youth and experience.
Another big factor behind all the optimism was the fact that the Flyers had seemingly finally unearthed their franchise goaltender in Hart, bringing to an end years of pain and misery between the pipes.
Having been searching and craving an elite goalie since the days of the great Bernie Parent and then Ron Hextall, Philadelphia strongly believed they had their franchise savior in Hart, who was drafted with the 48th overall pick in the Second Round of the 2016 NHL Entry Draft.
Such were the high expectations surrounding the phenom that the front office perhaps overprotected their asset and treated him with kid gloves for too long, a reality that cost Hextall his job as General Manager.
Carter Hart has to put tough year behind him and use the experience as motivation
However, the long wait to see their stud netminder in action was worth it for Flyers fans as Hart burst on to the NHL scene, producing a .917 Save Percentage and a 2.83 Goals Against Average in 31 games in 2018-19, before posting a 2.42 GAA and a .914 SV% in 43 games in 2019-20.
Hart would go on to carve out a pretty impressive postseason last year too, keeping two shutouts along with a 2.23 Goals Against Average and a .926 Save Percentage in 14 starts as Philadelphia sent out a clear message to the rest of the league that they were ready to really contend once again.
For whatever reason, though, things just haven’t gone to plan this season for the Philadelphia Flyers and they have just five games remaining before their 2020-21 campaign is over having missed the Playoffs for the second time in three seasons.
You can pinpoint a plethora of different reasons as to why this talent-laden team punched well below their weight for the majority of the season, be it the fact they have one of the worst goal differentials in the entire NHL (-42), or that they rank 17th in Goals For Per Game (2.76), 21st on the power play (19.4) and 30th on the penalty kill (73.2).
All of those factors, along with the fact that certain key players just have not been consistent enough, have contributed to this dumpster fire of a season for the Flyers, but arguably their biggest flaw has been dreadful goaltending.
Very much considered a strength heading into the year with capable veteran Brian Elliott backing up Hart, the goaltending instead imploded with this team currently ranked dead last in Goals Against Per Game, allowing an average of 3.57 goals per game.
At the time of writing this, they have allowed the most goals in the entire NHL with 186 and what was a considerable strength quickly morphed into a fatal flaw that has hindered this team throughout much of the year.
That’s more goals allowed than the likes of the Buffalo Sabres, the Ottawa Senators and the New Jersey Devils, by the way. Yeah, not great Bob, not great.
Elliott has hardly been stellar with a .890 Save Percentage and a 3.02 Goals Against Average in 27 games, but it was the performances of Hart that sparked more panic given that the 22-year-old’s play seemingly dropped off a cliff this year.
Hart posted an alarming 3.67 Goals Against Average and a .877 Save Percentage in 27 games, allowing a total of 89 goals and he was just shelled on some nights, leading to a clear drop in confidence that eventually resulted in the goalie being sat for a few games.
Now recovering and rehabbing from an MCL Sprain in his left knee, Hart won’t play again this season and this coming offseason might be his most important yet as a professional hockey player given the tumultuous year he’s just suffered through.
His drop in play and his lack of consistency was alarming this year, although you do have to take into account the toll of playing through a Pandemic and the lack of a preseason and the impact that may have had on certain players.
Hart himself is still incredibly young and is still cutting his teeth in the National Hockey League so blips and rough patches are to be expected, and he will now have to study lots of game tape and put the work in over the offseason in order to put this year behind him and come back in 2021-22 a better player than he was before.
The one positive is that Hart did show signs of improvement in his five starts before being shut down for the year, going 1-2-2 with a 2.31 Goals Against Average and a .910 Save Percentage, and it is also important to remember that not all of the Flyers’ struggles were on Hart given that so many other established players failed to live up to expectations.
Overall, even the greatest players that have their names etched in the rich history of their respective sports all have down years and tough moments but the reason they belong in the upper-echelon of elite players is because they don’t let the negatives define them, but rather use it as a springboard to further greatness and that is now the mission for Carter Hart who will need to put this season behind him and instead focus all of his energy on continuing to become a franchise netminder for the Philadelphia Flyers, starting with a revenge tour in 2021-22.