PITTSBURGH – After a spectacular rookie season, this wasn’t how it was supposed to go in Year 2 for goalie Carter Hart.
Following a strong start, with wins over Chicago in Prague and the New Jersey Devils in the home opener, Hart has struggled to regain his touch.
He’s 0-3-1 in his last four starts and watched from the bench in four of the last five games.
Upon getting lit up for five goals on just 14 shots in Sunday night’s 5-3 loss at the Islanders, Hart was sitting again on Tuesday night as Brian Elliott got the start against the Penguins at PPG Paints Arena.
Coach Alain Vigneault appears to be taking a pragmatic approach here. There was no point in going back to Hart again to face a fast-skating team like Pittsburgh.
“Carter’s fighting it a little bit right now,’’ Vigneault said before the game, “but he’s going to put in the time and put in the work, and … we’ve got to focus on what we’ve got to do tonight with Brian in the net.”
Hart expects more of himself. He said after the Islander game he might be overthinking the game in certain situations.
“You just have to take things one puck at a time,’’ Hart said. “I think that’s something that I really have to embrace. I say it all the time but I think it’s something that I have to start doing. I think all of them (the five goals vs. New York) were stoppable. I just have to get back to work.’’
The numbers kind of tell the story: A 3.32 goals-against average and .862 save percentage. Those need to improve before Vigneault can show complete faith in him again.
>A demanding schedule
One byproduct of the Flyers’ season-opening trip to the Czech Republic was a rather hectic schedule upon their return.
Tuesday night’s game completed a three-games-in-four-nights stretch for Philly and after two days off they have another back-to-back when they play at New Jersey on Friday and host Toronto on Saturday..
“Our guys had a day off yesterday, and I’m real confident that we’re going to have good energy tonight,’’ Vigneault said at the morning skate. “We’re going to come out a lot better than last game (at Long Island).’’
>Back in the groove for JVR
After going without a point in his first seven games, James van Riemsdyk responded with three goals and three assists for six points in his next three games.
What suddenly clicked?
“It funny, sometimes small little margins make big differences,’’ he said. “I felt like I was getting good chances, I just wasn’t getting rewarded production-wise. . .wasn’t burying the chances that I usually bury.
“But you have to stick with it, have a good process, keep a good frame of mind and try to keep all the other parts of your game sharp.’’
No doubt it helped that Vigneault promoted JVR to a top line with Claude Giroux at center and Jake Voracek on the right side.
Even though van Riemsdyk is a veteran in the NHL, the seven-game pointless streak was starting to wear on him a bit.
“To be honest, it’s still tough in the sense that we’re all proud,’’ he said. “I love what I do and I care about being successful. It (a slump) certainly eats at you. When you’re at home, you’re probably not as much fun to be around. You’re not sleeping as good.
“But as I said, you have to stick with the things you know will bring you success.’’
The Flyers entered Tuesday night’s game with a record of 14-3-3 at PPG Paints Arena. In five previous visits here, they earned at least a point.
After playing his first game of the season at Long Island on Sunday, rookie defenseman Sam Morin returned to the bench on Tuesday as Robert Hagg was put back in the lineup.
Voracek entered the game against Pittsburgh looking for NHL goal No. 200.
Travis Konecny registered at least one point in nine of the Flyers’ first 10 games.
Pittsburgh’s Sidney Crosby entered the game against Philadelphia needing one point to make it an even 100 for his career vs. the Flyers. His 41 goals (in 67 career games) against the Flyers are the most he’s scored against any NHL opponent.