A couple months back, this looked for all the world like it was going to be a golden opportunity for Carter Hart to get his first Stanley Cup playoff experience.
Of course, all of that has been put on hold for the Flyers’ 21-year-old goaltender.
There’s no way of knowing if the 2019-20 hockey season will be completed, so all Hart can do now is try to stay in shape and hope for the best, i.e., some sort of resolution to the COVID-19 crisis.
Right now he’s back in his hometown Sherwood Park, a suburb of Edmonton, Alberta, passing the time like a lot of young players with video games and so forth.
If he does get into a playoff game at some point, that would be great. But he’s not losing sleep over it.
“We put ourselves in a good position down the stretch,’’ Hart said during a media conference call on Thursday. “It definitely sucks that we didn’t get to finish it out.
“Hopefully we can get that chance down the line once everything gets back to normal.’’
They say goalies really make their reputations in the playoffs. Hart, who was 24-13-3 with a 2.42 goals-against average (seventh in the NHL) at the time of the stoppage, would be eager to show what he’s got when it matters most.
“I was definitely excited to play a playoff game this year,’’ he said. “It’s every kid’s dream to play in a Stanley Cup playoff.’’
For now, he’s trying to stay in dryland shape for the day when ice is made available.
“With the lockdown, you really can’t do too much,’’ Hart said. “I have a bike in the basement, free weights and all the (resistance) bands I need.’’
He also is receiving guidance from his weight trainer and his yoga instructor.
“There’s no ice anywhere,’’ Hart pointed out. “So we can’t really skate. We just have to try to maintain our fitness levels off the ice.’’
Had the Flyers made the playoffs, they would have started postseason play either Wednesday or Thursday. When reminded of that, Hart expressed his frustration.
“Yeah, it sucks that we’re not playing hockey right now,’’ he said. “But there are bigger things now that are going on in the world.
“Everybody is in the same boat. We all have to try to do our part. I know everyone who is working on the front line, the medical workers, hospital workers. . .they’re all doing a great job. We have to do our part, stay inside, try to stay healthy and beat this thing so we can resume our everyday lives.’’
If/when hockey returns this season, it figures goaltenders might need a little more time than position players to get ready for action.
Hart estimated a week or two to get a feel for the game again.
“If we were to come back, we probably would need a week or two for us to get back together as a group,’’ he said. “Get back in sync, get back on the ice, feel the puck and kind of get back into hockey shape because you don’t want to rush into it right away.
“When you have an extended break like this or you don’t know how long (with the uncertainty) it’s going to be, there comes the risk of injury. I think it’s important that whenever we do come back, that we get the proper time to get back into hockey shape.’’
Proposals continue to be made public of possible schedule scenarios if the sport ever gets the OK to resume play. Hart has heard a bunch of them.
“You hear a ton of rumors,’’ he said. “But you can’t really know what’s true and what’s not. I think when the time comes and the decision comes, us as professional athletes have to make sure that we find a way to stay ready now and when that time comes, we’re prepared no matter what kind of format it is.’’
Hart’s 2018-19 rookie season taught him a lot but he might have learned even more in the 2019-20 campaign.
One thing he discovered was the importance of maintenance days and recovery time.
“It’s keeping yourself healthy off the ice,’’ he said. “I learned last year that it’s a tight schedule, you’re playing almost every second night.
“This year I learned playing a full season, I think it’s really important that you stay on top of your body condition, staying healthy and doing all the little things to make sure you’re ready every night to perform.’’