The Philadelphia Flyers had a nightmare season on and off the ice. Head coaching changes and attendance problems stemming from an apparent lack of direction and success to some poor production numbers on most accounts, the team was running against the wind. Of course, there were a few bright spots, as there usually are on any lousy team. One person who was hard to fault for this was the young goaltender Carter Hart.
Before addressing Hart’s season, which would appear below average at first glance, I think it’s essential to figure out what kind of defense he was dealing with in front of him. As much as newer goaltending statistics can account for the type of danger associated with shots one faces, there are still some problems that I don’t think encapsulate the kind of overall performance a goalie has.
The Flyers ranked 28th in the NHL in regularized adjusted plus-minus (RAPM) expected goals against per 60 (xGA/60). In layman’s terms, they were one of the worst teams at allowing high-danger opportunities against, and it doesn’t help that they weren’t great at creating high-danger chances on the other end of the ice.
The orange and black were also the second-worst team in Corsi-Against per 60. They were terrible at preventing shot attempts, and many were high danger.
So what does that have to do with Hart, who played 45 games and ended with a 13-24-7 record, 3.16 goals against average, and a .905 save percentage? Well, his minus-7 goals saved above expected (GSAx), ranked 34th out of 50 goaltenders with a minimum of 1,000 Fenwick against (FA), per Evolving-Hockey, may not represent as much of his performance as one might think.
Hart was one of the only bright spots to be talked about at the start of a thoroughly miserable season for the team. With a strong start, an unfortunate trip to the Covid-19 protocol, a return, and an injury that ended his season, his season was full of ups and downs.
One thing that was detrimental to his overall numbers was his play on the penalty kill. Not only were the Flyers bad, but his individual performance was not helping the case.
The even strength play wasn’t bad, and even though the graph above is essential, don’t let it fool you. The Flyers were much worse than what “team” bars suggest.
Hart is a young goaltender who can still use some work on parts of his game, like every player in his place. The good news, however, is that Flyers fans have seen that his disaster of a 2020-21 season was likely just a bump in a very long road. The injuries could undoubtedly be a tricky subject for plenty of people, but the hope is that he can turn it up even more with some competition.
Of course, the Flyers are in a tough spot, which inevitably puts the young Canadian goaltender in a tough place. If the team in front of him doesn’t perform, there’s only so much he can do. Hopefully, new head coach John Tortorella can shore up the defensive system, giving Hart a legitimate chance to earn the Flyers wins. Another item on the agenda would be providing him some competition for the crease, which he did not have much of last season. Hopefully, Felix Sandstrom is more competitive than Martin Jones was.
Hart had a tough 2021-22 season, but it was an improvement on a disaster year previously. I’m more inclined to give him the benefit of the doubt for his below-average performance. Something that fans can look out for primarily next season, and something I’m looking for as well, is a more considerable resurgence.