NEW YORK – While Carter Hart might be only 20 years old, any athlete is susceptible to fatigue or injury if overplayed.
Some of that logic went into Flyers coach Scott Gordon’s decision not to start Hart in goal for Sunday night’s game against the Rangers at Madison Square Garden.
Instead, veteran Michal Neuvirth was given that assignment.
It was demanding enough that Hart started his first three NHL games in a span of five days (Detroit, Nashville, Columbus).
But Hart has also played a pair of games with the Lehigh Valley Phantoms last weekend just before his call-up on Monday.
On top of that, Hart played a demanding game against the Blue Jackets on Saturday and most NHL coaches don’t want to start goalies in back-to-back games, no matter what their age.
“I think the biggest thing is he’s played three games in five days, but beyond that, he (Hart) played Friday and Saturday before he got here so you’re looking at six games in (10) days and I thought about it,’’ Gordon said.
“Going into the game I thought ‘if he had a light workload’ possibly, but then I thought about what he did before he came here and I said to myself, ‘I don’t want to second guess putting him in a situation where he could very well go in and play well,’ but as it is probably the right thing not just from a lot of games standpoint, but when you think about as a 20-year-old going through your first call-up and having the pressure of performing well and wanting to perform well and trying to make a statement as to saying you’re ready, that’s a lot of stress.’’
Indeed. With the Flyers changing coaches (just a few weeks after changing general managers), Hart walked into a pressure-filled situation.
So far, he is 2-1 and has allowed seven goals in three games. Several of those came on shots which were virtually unstoppable.
In addition, Hart has had to deal with other possible distractions as well.
“His family was in town,’’ Gordon notes. “When it was all said and done it almost became a no-brainer decision. Now he goes into the break and I would like to think he feels good about how he’s performed.’’
Meanwhile, Neuvirth went into the Ranger game having played only two games (both losses), with a 6.14 goals-against average and .719 save percentage.
He’s been sidelined most of the season by a nagging groin injury, this after undergoing surgery during the offseason.
With both Brian Elliott and Anthony Stolarz still recovering from lower-body injuries and Alex Lyon not showing much in his brief NHL action this season, it looks like the tandem of Hart-Neuvirth will be carrying the freight for awhile.
Hart looked a little more vulnerable in the Columbus game but that’s understandable. After two excellent performances against Detroit and Nashville, there was bound to be a clunker or two, although Sean Couturier disputed that.
“He was good, he made some big saves, a few bad bounces and it’s in the back of our net,’’ Couturier said. “I thought he did good, nothing to complain about.’’