Remember when Shayne Gostisbehere first entered the league? It feels like a long time ago, but here is a refresher.
The Fyers were 5-8-3, they averaged less than 2 goals per game and didn’t appear to have a clear identity. When Gostisbehere came onto the scene, he immediately made an impact, getting an assist in his first game and a goal in the next.
He continued his dominance the rest of the year, breaking an NHL record for longest point streak by a rookie defenseman and leading the charge to the playoffs. The Flyers were 36-19-11 with “Ghost” in the lineup.
What we are now seeing with Carter Hart is eerily similar. A young player coming in and immediately being a difference-maker for the club. The timing was unfortunate for the Flyers, as it came after 31 games when they were at the bottom of the standings and literally had no other option but to call up and give the young goaltender a shot.
They have made the most of it though. Even though the record isn’t showing it, they have been playing with a lot more confidence and energy since Hart’s call up, which was on December 17th. The team has more desire to clear the front of the net and sacrifice the body, but they’ve still been bad defensively, giving up 30 or more shots in 14 of 19 games since the recall.
In his 13 games played, Hart is 7-5-1 and has stopped 367 of 398 shots (.922 save%), giving up 31 goals (2.53 GAA). The majority of his wins have also come against playoff teams (Nashville, Winnipeg, Boston, Montreal, Dallas & Minnesota).
He was also the fifth goalie in the past 20 years to record four consecutive wins before his 21st birthday, joining Steve Mason, Carey Price, Kari Lehtonen, and Dan Blackburn.
It’s more than safe to say that Hart has been holding his own at the highest level of professional hockey, living up to his reputation of being a game-changer.
The Flyers as a whole could be much better. For starters, their power play has been a wreck all season, operating at 12.9%. The five-forward unit has not brought in the results Gordon and Knoblauch thought it would. With the talent the Flyers have on offense, it is ridiculous to see them sit dead last in PP% this season. If they want to make a miraculous comeback, that would be a start.
The penalty kill has been an issue for over four years now, and we are slowly seeing progress under Gordon. A much more aggressive unit has led to a boost in their PK%, but it can still be much better. The forwards often give too much space for cross-ice passes or clear shots towards the net, resulting in easy deflections and chances.
On a nightly basis, the Flyers allow too many high-scoring chances in close and luckily, have been bailed out by their goaltending, which isn’t something the fans have been able to say this year. With the deadline looming, we might see some players on the move and a chance for Lehigh Valley Phantoms players to see time with the big club (hint hint, Philippe Myers).
The Flyers are currently riding an NHL-best five-game winning streak. The majority of the praise belongs to Hart, who has won four in a row with a .934 save %, turning aside quality chances with ease.
Anthony Stolarz, who was the considered the goalie of the future when drafted back in 2012, displayed his brilliance against the New York Rangers, turning aside 38 shots for his second career shutout to help Hart with the workload.
Photos courtesy of Kate Frese