No team embodies the term “confusing,” quite like the Philadelphia Flyers. At 7-2-2 through 11 games, Philadelphia sits in second place of the East Division. Their 16 points are enough for a three-way tie atop the NHL. Still, their overall play barely matches their position in the standings. Continuously coughing up late leads and looking below average in all zones at times leads to more caution than optimism. Even though the record makes them a top team, Flyers fans remain justified in their frustration as long as they maintain one rule. Do not blame Carter Hart.
During trying times, it is natural to assign blame. We do it whenever things go awry, not just in hockey. In terms of the Flyers, there is plenty of blame to go around. Whether you want to focus on defensive play, lack of offensive zone time, Sean Couturier’s absence, bad special teams, stupid turnovers, or a need for more physicality, identifying reasons for Philadelphia’s underachievement is simple.
At the same time, blaming goaltending is a lazy approach. First and foremost, Brian Elliott has been nothing short of amazing in his backup role. Yes, the sample size is small, just three games. However, letting in just eight goals with an undefeated record is more than Philadelphia could have asked for. Some, unhappy with Carter Hart’s performance, want to see Elliot between the pipes more often.
Carter Hart is Not to Blame
In the midst of his third season, Hart’s numbers are far from outstanding. In eight games, the 22-year-old netminder has let in 26 goals on 255 shots. His record, although 4-2-2, holds the Flyers only regulation and overtime losses this season. Also, when Philadelphia’s allows two-goal leads to disappear, Hart typically resides in the net. Still, it is challenging to place any of the blame on his shoulders.
Overall, the product in front of Carter Hart has not been good. Philadelphia spends far too much time defending, constantly failing to clear the puck out of their zone. When it is cleared, the Flyers struggle to maintain offensive momentum, spending minimal time applying pressure on the opponent. This gives Carter Hart very little time to breathe, protecting the net during what seems like an everlasting power play.
Philadelphia allows the third most shot attempts per game. Opponents register an average of 33.8 shots each contest. Only the Chicago Blackhawks and Vancouver Canucks allow more. That is a tough position for a netminder to be in every game, especially when many opportunities are quality chances off bonehead turnovers. Philadelphia’s continuous poor play forces Carter Hart to be phenomenal at all times. That, of course, is not a reality.
Even though Philadelphia allows many shots, they remain an average team in terms of goals-against per game. Think about it. A team with a poor goalie would get lit up every night, allowing 33.8 shots a contest. The Flyers, on the other hand, let in just over three goals a game. That is a result of reliable goaltending, provided by both Brian Elliott and Carter Hart.
After Wednesday’s loss to Boston, the Flyers fanbase became overwhelmed with feelings of frustration and anger. For a team set up for a long postseason run, it becomes unbearable to watch leads dissolved due to poor play and avoidable mistakes. Even though expressing displeasure is completely justified, it is important to point the unhappiness in the right direction.
Carter Hart is a bigger factor in keeping this team afloat. He is not responsible for their issues.
Photo by Andy Lewis/Icon Sportswire