The transition from junior hockey to the pros is almost never an easy one to make, especially for goaltenders, but Carter Hart looks to be turning a corner of late. The rookie netminder picked up his fourth win, making 35 saves on 37 shots in the Lehigh Valley Phantoms overtime victory against the Charlotte Checkers last night, raising his save percentage on the season from .883 to .893.
After allowing three goals or more in his first four games, Hart has now allowed more than three goals in just one of his last four starts. While you can’t just throw out his first four outings, his numbers are trending in the right direction with a .918 save percentage over his last four games.
In last night’s game Hart faced four medium danger, and ten high danger shots for a total of 14 scoring chances across all situations, stopping 13 of them. The other goal that he allowed did qualify as a low danger chance, and he joked with reporters following the game about it, stating that he, “kind of fell asleep,” on the game-tying marker. Outside of the one flub he was locked in all night long and made some remarkable saves, with maybe none bigger than this stop on the penalty kill just two minutes into the contest.
A below-the-goal-line, royal-road pass to set up a one-timer on the power play goes in more times than not, but Hart’s tracking and awareness allowed him to read the play as it was happening and get into position to make the sliding stop.
His excellence in the first period wouldn’t stop there, as he’d go on to make another sliding save on what turned into an odd-man situation, only to follow it up with four saves in four seconds just moments later.
The save that he makes at around the 12 second mark of the video showcases the one area of his game that he needs to show the most improvement in—his rebound control. While there’s been some progress made, he’s still got a ways to go and tonight only did more to confirm that notion. Nevertheless, Hart was very good in last night’s contest and many viewed this as strongest performance to date, myself included.
Hart and the Phantoms will look to build on last night’s performance on Friday night when they meet up with one of their division rivals, the Providence Bruins. Whether he starts that game is unknown, but given that the team will be playing on back-to-back nights Friday and Saturday, Hart will likely get into one more game this week.