Saturday night was the Carter Hart show at the Wells Fargo Center.
Playing in their third game in four nights, the Philadelphia Flyers weren’t on their A-Game against the Buffalo Sabres. They came out sloppy in the first period and it didn’t get that much better from there. They ultimately came out on top with a 3-1 victory thanks in large part to Claude Giroux, who scored two goals, but mostly because of Carter Hart.
The Flyers were outshot in every period, from 13-4 in the first, to 11-10 in the second and 15-10 in the third, totaling 39 shots on goal against Hart. They needed a great performance from Hart to have a chance against the Sabres, and the young goalie delivered. Whether it be a flashy glove save or just good positioning to keep the puck out of the net, Hart made 38 saves in the win.
It hasn’t been uncommon for Hart to come up with a game like that throughout his young career. The Flyers have done a great job this season of limiting shots against, but Hart has answered the bell when necessary.
It makes sense that a goalie plays better – statistically – when he faces a lot of shots. If a goalie allows just one or two goals, the difference in save percentage when facing 20 shots or 30 shots is pretty drastic. The goalie is able to pad their save percentage with more shots faced. Also, if a goalie is playing poorly and allows four or more goals, there’s a higher chance that he’ll get pulled before he gets an opportunity to face a higher shot total.
There have been a few analyses on shot volumes affecting save percentage over the years, but Hart’s numbers go beyond what is expected.
According to Hockey Reference’s Game Finder index, there were 1178 games this season (through Saturday) where a goalie saw at least 30 shots on goal against. In those 1178 games, the goalies went 638-380-155 with five no decisions. Or, in simpler terms to compare to other sample sizes, their teams earned 1.22 points per game.
In those 1178 games, goalies posted a .922 save percentage, which is above the league average of .909.
There have been 568 games where a goalie faced 35 or more shots, with a record of 315-163-89 (1.27 P/G) and a 0.928 save percentage.
As goalies face more shots, it makes sense that their save percentage would tend to go up.
Hart is no different. He has done even better than most when facing more shots.
It hasn’t happened as often this year as last – due to the Flyers’ improved team defense – but Hart has faced 30 or more shots 29 times in his career (11 this season), and 35 or more shots 19 times in his career (just four times this year).
This season, Hart is 9-1-1 (1.73 P/G) with a 0.938 save percentage when he faces 30 or more shots. In seven of those 11 games, he has allowed just one goal. He has allowed three goals twice: the season opener in Prague, Czech Republic, and in December against Ottawa – both wins. He has allowed five goals twice as well, first in a 5-4 loss to the Golden Knights in Vegas on January 2nd, and then in the come-from-behind win against the Boston Bruins.
Hart has faced 35 or more shots just four times this season, going 3-0-1 with a .973 save percentage (146 saves on 150 shots). He allowed just one goal in each of those games.
In his career, Hart is 23-5-1 (1.62 P/G) with a .939 save percentage when facing 30 or more shots, and 14-4-1 (1.53 P/G) with a .944 save percentage when facing 35 or more shots.
He has yet to have a 30 (or more)-save shutout, but he has allowed just one goal in 14 of 29 games when facing 30 shots, and in nine of 19 games when facing 35 or more shots – that’s almost half!
For comparison, goalies have allowed one goal or less just 20% of the time when facing 30 or more shots, and 19% of the time when facing 35 or more shots this season. The most common result in games is the goalie allowing two or three goals, which happens around half of the time.
For the record, the charts for 35 or more shots against is nearly identical, and 30 offers a larger sample size.
It’s early in his career, but Hart is already shining under the spotlight. He helped the Flyers climb out of the doldrums last season and give them some hope for a playoff spot, and he’s leading the charge in net as the Flyers look to make a run in the playoffs this year.
It could just be a small sample size, or Carter Hart could just be that good. Let’s go with the latter.