Philadelphia sports fans know the story all too well. A young, promising star, perhaps even with a franchise tag, looks like a sure thing. But then he quickly fails to meet expectations. The play and statistics of Carter Hart so far this season have some fans wondering if this is Hart’s current trajectory. Is he destined for a career that is more average, or steeped in mediocrity?
However, if we take a bit of a deep dive on Hart this season and look at some past historical examples, what Hart is experiencing is rather normal for any goalie. Especially so for young ones attempting to solidify their overall game. Here are a few factors that are influencing what appears to be a decline in success this season.
Poor Team Penalty Kill
The Flyers have the second-worst penalty kill in the entire NHL so far this season. Sitting at an abysmal 70.18%, the Flyers have struggled mightily when down a man. They have especially struggled to contain high danger scoring chances while shorthanded. This is forcing Carter Hart to have to make impossible saves. Because of much of this, Hart has allowed 13 goals on 52 shots shorthanded this season and is rocking an abysmal .750 save percentage on the penalty kill.
Penalty killing is very much a “team effort,” and Hart’s struggles to be even remotely close to league average in this statistic are mostly due to system issues, not individual performance. While he has let in a squeaker here or there, the Flyers’ penalty kill is destroying his game statistically.
Low Team Possession Numbers
It’s early yet, but the Flyers’ possession numbers are significantly lower this year than last. Last season, the Flyers’ were one of the top in the league when it came to expected goals and overall possession numbers. This year, the opposite is true. The Flyers currently sit 20th in expected goals in the entire league. What much of this is showing is that the Flyers’ have the puck less than their opponents in any given game, and in most moments of the game. This is especially true from last season to this season when the Flyers’ solidified themselves as a top-five possession team in the league.
What this means for Hart this year is that his team has the puck less, is creating fewer scoring chances, and giving up more scoring chances against him. Hart is being forced to do more, while the team is doing significantly less for him. In fact, of starting goalies, Hart has played some of the least minutes of any goalie, yet has received some of the most shots against already. Over the last five games, Hart has faced over 30 shots three times, and the other two games were just under that number. The Flyers are frequently putting Hart in tough positions, which is leading to Hart’s poor statistics in-comparison to other seasons.
Long Time off and Recent Quarantine
Goalies rely on rhythm and routine. This is especially true once the season starts. Goalies build confidence in this way. Unfortunately for Hart, he has had a ton of disruption. The long time off after the summer play-ins and the Flyers’ shutdown due to COVID-19 cases has forced Hart to spend a lot less time playing. For a young goalie, this has a vast impact on his overall ability to gain rhythm and consistency.
Hart isn’t the problem, Team Play is
There are some reasons to worry as a Flyers’ fan in the early stages of the season. However, Carter Hart isn’t one of them. The Flyers’ lackluster play so far this season, their low possession numbers, and their struggles on the penalty kill have perpetually put Hart in impossible positions. In order for Hart to be better, the Flyers will need to return to the form that led to their success last season. Otherwise, continue to expect the young star to have below-average statistics across the board and the Flyers to be outside the playoff picture come late spring.