When the Philadelphia Flyers recalled Carter Hart back on December 17th, the move was met with a lot of warranted skepticism. After all, it happened while we were all three-plus days into the “Is Dave Hakstol actually fired?” charade, Hart had only played in 17 professional games and had a measly .901 save percentage in the AHL, and he’s just 20 years old — you just don’t see that young of a goaltender play in the NHL that often. Yet, through all of that, the decision to call Hart up might get looked back on as the organization’s best this season.
Following his spectacular 39-save performance over the Boston Bruins, Hart’s record improved to 5-5-1, making him the lone Flyers’ netminder to not have a record below hockey .500, and his save percentage hit .915. While those figures won’t make him look like a world-beater by any means, they are still impressive given the state of the team and, again, him being 20 years old. But the question remains, how has he fared in comparison to goaltenders across the league?
To answer that, we’ll turn to Corsica.hockey and first take a look at goaltenders’ expected save percentage up against their actual save percentage, also known as their delta save percentage. We’ll be focusing on 5-on-5 play, as Hart has only faced 30 total shots in penalty kill situations this season. Hart has an expected save percentage of 92.51% based on the quality of shots that he’s faced, and has an actual save percentage of 92.54%; +0.03 delta. Okay, cool, so he’s performed about as well as he’s been expected to, where does that place him league-wide? There have been 62 goaltenders that have played in over 400 minutes so far this season, and Hart’s delta save percentage puts him directly in the middle of them all at 31st — pretty average, which isn’t a bad thing. He’s played in less than 30 professional hockey games and has already been performing like an average NHL goaltender.
But just average is nowhere near the lofty expectations everyone around the Flyers has for him, so why not go a step further and compare him to where we hope he can get to one day, the best of the best?
Now, it’s a bit unfair to compare Hart to other starting goaltenders this season as he’s only appeared in eleven games thus far, but we’re going to do that anyway, because we can, who’s going to stop us? Seriously though, just keep in mind that every other goaltender discussed here will have supplied us with a much larger sample size to judge them on. To remedy some of this, we’ll introduce goals saved above average to the equation to better appreciate the goaltenders who have managed to play at a high level while facing an abundance of shots this season.
When placed next to the other 30 teams’ games played leader, Hart sits 16th in GSAA, again suggesting that he’s been an average NHL goaltender. But of course not every team’s starter is expected to perform at the same level, and putting names to some of the players behind Hart can put his ranking into a bit more perspective. While last year’s Vezina Trophy recipient, Pekka Rinne, is second to only John Gibson with 8.36 GSAA on the season, the two runners up for the award, Connor Hellebuyck and Andrei Vasilevskiy, can each be found in the negatives this season, allowing more goals than expected at 5-on-5. So while “average” isn’t a word that pops off the page, being average has him ahead of two-thirds of last season’s Vezina finalists. Does that actually mean anything? Not really, his play has nothing to do with their quality of play being down from last year, but I’m leaving it in because it’s a fun fact and it sounds nice.
It’s still way to early to start drawing conclusions from this season, but so far Hart has more than surpassed expectations for a goaltender with as little pro experience as he possesses. The main takeaway here is that through his first eleven games, Hart has done as well as he’s been expected to based on the shots he’s faced, and by doing so has placed himself in the middle of the pack — an impressive feat for a rookie. Only time will tell if he can hold that place, or possibly even improve on it, but for now there’s nothing but positive things to say about Hart’s emergence as an NHL level goaltender.