Pressure-filled playoffs will power Hart’s future

Carter Hart
      Bernie Parent endured the blast furnace pressure of playoff hockey at an early age, as did Pelle Lindbergh and Ron Hextall.
      History tells us all three would go on to greatness, albeit shorter stints for Hextall (injuries, trades, etc.) and Lindbergh (a tragic fatal car accident).
      The narrative of these three goaltenders – considered by most as the greatest in Flyers’ history – provide a glimpse of what could be in store for the franchise’s next promising hope, Carter Hart.
      Starting this postseason at age 21 (he turned 22 on Aug. 13), Hart has positioned himself ahead of the curve of the three aforementioned netminders.
      His first crack at the playoffs comes after just his first full regular season in the NHL and through 13 games (prior to Saturday night’s Game 7 vs. the Islanders) his numbers were stellar: 9-4 record, 2.17 goals-against average, .929 save percentage.
      No one is vowing Hart will measure up to icons like Parent and Hextall but most agree the potential is there.
      It’s not the just the brilliance of his mechanics, the technical soundness of his game.
      What seems to impress his teammates the most is the way he keeps cool under fire. He can let in a bad goal or two but quickly shake it off.
      Late in Tuesday night’s Game 5, he allowed a couple goals that coaches often refer to as “he’d like to have back.’’ Then he returns around and comes up with a few sensational stops in overtime to allow the Flyers to stay alive until a Scott Laughton goal.
      That mental toughness might be the one ingredient missing from a lot of the Flyers’ goaltenders since the late ‘80s.
      In other words, Flyers fans have been waiting a long time for a possible savior like this to come down the pike.
      “There’s no doubt that Carter’s been a huge part of our team,’’ head coach Alain Vigneault said Friday afternoon. “We have a young man there that’s very humble, works extremely hard and that has played some big games while we’re in this bubble from the round robin to our first series against Montreal to obviously these last games against Islanders.
      “Like last (Thursday) night, he was our best player. He gave us a chance to win. I thought in the overtime we played our best hockey in overtime. Carter’s a young man that’s growing with every experience he’s being given. We need him to continue to play well.’’
      The key words there are “growing with every experience he’s being given.’’
      Confidence in a goaltender by teammates can’t be overestimated. When a goalie is playing well, the whole team picks up on it and seems to play with better energy, more purpose.
      When Parent shut out the Boston Bruins in the 1974 Stanley Cup-clinching Game 6, 1-0, it set the standard for the franchise. It will take a lot to top that one but Hart appears to have that potential, as he showed in back-to-back shutouts against Montreal in the first round.
      Scott Laughton likes what he sees so far.
      “I think he’s been good for us all year,’’ Laughton said. “I don’t think anything has really changed in his game. We trust him back there. He’s such a good pro. I think guys have said it all along. He really takes care of himself and makes sure he’s ready.
      “We have all the belief in him back there. He makes a ton of big saves for our group and gives us momentum throughout a game. We trust him back there.’’
      >Flyers get involved in NHL inclusion initiatives
      On Thursday, the Flyers announced Valerie Camillo, president of business operations for the team, has been named to the NHL’s new Executive Inclusion Council.
      The NHL and the NHL Players’ Association are being quite proactive in the latest movement to bring greater awareness to social issues, including the fight against racism.
      The league said it’s taking a series of initiatives to “make our sport more welcoming and inclusive.’’
       “We applaud NHL Players for recognizing the importance of this moment and for coming together as part of a genuine movement for change,” NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said. “We look forward to working with all voices of change to fight for equality and broaden access to the game we all love.
      “Under the leadership of NHL Senior Executive Vice President of Social Impact, Growth Initiatives & Legislative Affairs Kim Davis, the league’s longstanding work in these areas has been refocused over the last three years and accelerated over the last six months. The initiatives we are announcing today are the result of that recommitment to making the NHL more inclusive and welcoming – and to using the privilege of our platform to fight racism.’’
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About Wayne Fish 2451 Articles
Wayne Fish has been covering the Flyers since 1976, a stint which includes 18 Stanley Cup Finals, four Winter Olympics and numerous other international events.

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