No disrespect to the Detroit Red Wings but Carter Hart’s initial swim in the NHL pool could be headed for much deeper water.
Powerhouse Nashville hits town on Thursday night and coach Peter Laviolette’s crew would like nothing better than to give the Flyers’ 20-year-old goaltending phenom a rude wake-up call.
Hart is coming off Tuesday night’s Flyer debut victory (3-2) over Detroit, one in which he made saves on 20 of 22 shots.
While the Hart performance did stop the Flyers’ recent bleeding and showcased to fans what he is capable of doing, the Predators figure to offer a much stiffer test.
Put it this way: Detroit is 14-16-5, while Nashville is 22-10-2.
But hey, who knows, Hart could come out and really add to his credibility with a stong performance against Nashville.
New interim coach Scott Gordon canceled the Flyers’ practice on Wednesday, possibly as a reward for the win over Detroit, maybe giving the team time to get over some jet-lag from the recent trip west, or maybe just to win a few “votes’’ in the locker room.
Whatever the case, Hart should be primed to go when the Predators arrive.
Wily old veteran James van Riemsdyk (well, he is pushing 30), liked what he saw of Hart’s composure.
“He’s got ice in his veins if you watch him out there,’’ van Riemsdyk said. “He’s very poised. Just tracks the game really well and did a great job for us. It was a good start to his career for him.’’
One could sense the Wells Fargo Center crowd was pulling for the kid. After all, he was trying to become the youngest goaltender ever to win a game in a Flyer uniform.
Did it feel the same way on the Flyers’ bench?
“I mean first and foremost obviously we were worried about winning the game,’’ JVR said. “But it’s nice to see your teammate have success in a situation like that. Again, he was really sharp all game long.
“Every time that we seemed like we needed to rely on him, he made a key save and a big save for us. So, think certainly that gets everyone on the bench a little more energized when that kind of stuff happens.’’
Hart admitted several times after the game that he was nervous at the start and again in the final minute when the Red Wings pulled their goalie. But he made it through and the two goals scored against him during the game were nothing to lose sleep over.
“I just tried to do things that weren’t out of my comfort zone and play to my strengths,’’ he explained.
The Edmonton-area native said he was only going to celebrate the Detroit win for one night, with his parents, and then move on.
“This business is a game of ‘what did you do now, not what you did yesterday,’ so, after I celebrate, you just have to put it behind you and prepare for Thursday.’’
Don’t forget, this fellow was still playing junior hockey earlier this calendar year. It’s a huge jump for a position player to make the jump from junior to minor pro to the NHL in one year, but probably double hard for a goalie.
Hart indicated he’s kind of making the transition on the fly.
“I think the experience I’ve had going to the American Hockey League (Phantoms) – just being around guys obviously who are close to NHL caliber,’’ Hart said. “Down there, it’s a good spot, it’s a good environment. Brady Robinson, the goaltending coach down there, has helped me a lot. It’s nice to have come in and talk about your game on a daily basis.’’
Right now, Hart is situated at center stage with the Philly sports spotlight shining directly in his eyes.
Yet he doesn’t seem to mind.
“I’m not too worried about what other people are thinking about me,’’ he said. “It’s nice to hear people cheering. I think when it comes to that kind of stuff, you just have to block it out. Pressure is only what you put on yourself.
“I think you have to have an even-keel mindset and just worry about what you can control.’’
The Flyers returned forward Phil Varone back to the Phantoms on Wednesday. . .Thursday night, the Flyers will have a night to honor Scott Hartnell, the former Flyer and Predator, who enjoyed the best season of his career with the Flyers when he scored 37 goals in the 2011-12 season. Hartnell retired this year.
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