We’re one game into the Philadelphia Flyers 2021-22 season and what else would the storyline be besides goaltending?
Carter Hart is coming off of the worst season in his short career –– and it was bad. Hart went 9-11-5 with a .877 save percentage and 3.67 goals against average in 27 games (25 starts). It was a far cry from the 40-26-4 record, .915 SV%, and 2.59 GAA he posted in his first two seasons (74 games, 70 starts).
This was a normal offseason for Hart, though, heading into a full 82-game season. A refreshed Hart and the Flyers also had their normal Training Camp, giving the netminder some time to prepare for the season.
All of that went out the window in the second period of the season opener, though. Hart allowed four goals on 13 shots in the frame, including a few that he will want back. His second-period struggles sent Flyers fans into a bit of a panic, worried about the young goalie.
But is there cause for concern or did Hart fall victim to a few bad bounces? Let’s take a look back at the four goals from Friday night to see exactly what went down.
The first goal was the only one that Hart gets some sort of pass on. A defensive breakdown at the blue line allowed a clean shooting lane –– and then some –– for Vasily Podkolzin.
Let’s start with what led up to the goal.
The Canucks are moving up ice with the puck in the screenshot above. At this point, Keith Yandle saw Myers stumbling with the puck and elected to go that way.
Yandle went way out of position to defend Tyler Myers entering the zone. Perhaps he thought Thompson or Max Willman would get back, but the seas parted for Podkolzin on the wing.
Podkolzin beat Hart high on the glove side, which has been an area of weakness for the Flyers netminder.
It’s somewhat excusable when the shooter has a few strides to pick his spot, but you want to see a save there.
After that, however, things got wonky.
Travis Konecny took a high-sticking penalty in the offensive zone, which is never a good thing. The Flyers penalty kill actually did a decent job of keeping the Canucks to the outside.
They may have done too good of a job taking away lanes. Elias Pettersson’s shot bounced off of Ivan Provorov’s shin pad, off the end boards, and finally off of Carter Hart before going in.
Hart needs to seal the post there, but it’s more a fluky bounce than anything. Had the puck gone a few inches to either side, it probably just comes back out front where Ellis and Provorov are alertly waiting.
This alternate angle gives a good look at it.
If this was an isolated fluky goal, it’d be chalked up to bad luck and that’s it. Unfortunately, it was the first of three interesting goals by the Canucks.
After the Canucks scored the above two goals in 91 seconds, they got another one just over five minutes later. This was another power-play tally.
A careless delay of game penalty by Provorov put the Flyers down a man again. This kill was decent until Scott Laughton came onto the ice early and the Flyers were called for too many men on the ice.
Nate Thompson, who was stopped on a breakaway created by Cam Atkinson, was still in the faceoff circle when Laughton jumped onto the ice (and into the play).
On the ensuing 5-on-3 power play, the Canucks struck.
J.T. Miller sent a perfect pass through Justin Braun to Alex Chiasson on the backdoor. Hart got across to make a great initial save
However, yet again the puck bounced into the net. The replay above doesn’t give a good look at what happened, but the overhead one does:
Travis Sanheim was the first one to get to the puck in the crease –– something we’ll see later –– and tried to clear it into the corner. Unfortunately for him, it bounced off of Chiasson’s skate and trickled right past where his pad was and into the net
Hart can’t be blamed too much for that one.
That’s two bad bounces in less than six minutes, though, and the Canucks completed the weird hat trick in the final minutes of the period.
Pettersson shot the puck at Hart from the corner. It’s a spot at The Farg that Flyers fans are all too familiar with. The puck didn’t sneak through Hart, though, but rather stuck on the goal line under his pad.
Sanheim was the first player to see the puck and he weakly attempted to keep it from crossing the line. Miller pushed right passed Sanheim and jammed the puck into the net.
This goal can be blamed on Hart and/or Sanheim.
Let’s start with Hart. As a few people noted on Twitter, Hart should’ve been in the RVH stance (Reverse, Vertical, Horizontal). Essentially, Hart’s right pad should’ve been flat against the ice and up against the post.
But it wasn’t.
That allowed the puck to drop down onto the goal line. At that point, one could argue that Hart should’ve remained stationary and waited for a whistle. That’s a valid argument, but it’s an argument that shouldn’t have to happen.
Okay, on to Sanheim. The defenseman saw the puck first and needed to make sure it did not cross the line. He could’ve dove down in front of the puck, cleared it out of the crease, or –– what a more physical defenseman would’ve done –– turned around and boxed out Miller.
But he did none of those things. One whack from Miller sent the puck across the goal line for the Canucks’ fourth goal of the period.
“The one play that I would like to have back is obviously the one where Hart appears to have it, there’s no whistle, and he second guesses that he does have it,” Sanheim said after practice on Sunday. “Next thing you know I’m fighting for a puck on the goal line. I’d like to be a little bit harder on that play, but I don’t know if there will be many plays like that the rest of the year.”
While it’s unlikely for a play like that to happen again, Sanheim will have plenty of opportunities to be more physical in front of the net. The debut of Rasmus Ristolainen, which could come this week, may help him out a bit in that area.
Sanheim’s “I don’t know if there will be many plays like that the rest of the year” quote is one that can be applied to the last three goals the Canucks scored. A blocked shot bounced off the end boards and off the goalie for a goal, an attempted clear ricocheted off the skate of someone falling on the ice, and a puck got stopped on the goal line from a sharp angle. It’s rare to see three goals like that for one team in a week, let alone a period.
There was –– and still is –– some concern about Hart after allowing those goals. He fell into a downward spiral last season and never really recovered. However, Hart bounced back in a big way in the third period. There were a few pucks that the Canucks were obviously throwing on net to test Hart and he stopped all of them. Hart allowed maybe a rebound that he shouldn’t have here or there, but he was quick to cover up.
The most impressive part of Hart’s game, and what redeemed himself heading into Monday night’s game and the rest of the season, was his play in overtime. He shut the door in a few big moments, including a breakaway chance by Pettersson. The shootout didn’t go his way, but the saves in overtime showed a lot.
So, what does all of this mean?
After last season’s snowball effect, it’s fair to question Hart’s play on the four goals against. However, it is way too early to count him out or even be significantly worried about him. There were a few bad bounces, but not enough to be a cause for concern. At least not yet.