Like the quarterback position in football and pitching in baseball, your team is only as good as your goaltender in ice hockey.
That’s why the Flyers believe they will be serious contenders for years to come based on what they have in Carter Hart.
Having just turned 22, Hart would appear to have a bright future. He’s already taken his team to within one win of reaching the Eastern Conference finals and his record down the stretch of the regular season was nothing short of spectacular.
After a brief one-week respite to relax a bit, Hart is already gearing up for next season, whenever that might start.
The goal it would seem includes carrying over the momentum of the 2019-20 campaign, where the Flyers finished with a rush to nearly take the Metro Division title, then captured the East’s No. 1 seed in the round-robin tournament.
Hart showed his best wares at various points in the two postseason series, shutting out Montreal in back-to-back games (becoming the youngest goalie in the modern era to do so), then standing tall in multiple overtime victories during the New York Islanders series.
All that playoff experience should prove invaluable moving forward.
“Playoff hockey is different,’’ Hart said during a media conference call on Wednesday. “You’re playing almost every second day. I think it was a little different in the sense that there we were in the bubble and the NHL was trying to get things done quicker.
“I think rest and recovery are really important. In playoff hockey, you can find yourself down or find yourself up. There are always a lot of those ups and downs, you just have to find a way to stay even-keeled, stay as consistent as possible.’’
While the NHL schedule has been thrown out of whack by the global health crisis, Hart says he will approach this offseason pretty much like any other.
He maintains an off-ice program which includes yoga, stretching and weightlifting.
“Just a normal offseason, I guess,’’ he said. “I took a week off from training but started back up yesterday because I felt so lazy sitting around the house. . .I needed to do something.
“I’ll probably take a little time off the ice to give my body some rest.’’
It practically goes without saying Hart would like to see potential unrestricted veteran goaltender Brian Elliott come back for another season.
Elliott has served as a valuable mentor/backup the past two seasons and given his 16-7-4 mark, there appears to be no reason not to welcome him back into the fold again.
“We get along really well,’’ Hart said. “I love playing with him. He’s been a great mentor to me. He has a lot of experience. I really hope he’s back and he definitely wants to come back as well. He’s taught me so many things, I’m grateful to have played alongside him this year.’’
Hart believes he’s on the right track with his own career. As mentioned, staying even-keeled is important and just learning the day-to-day grind can prove invaluable down the road.
“As I said, you just have to find that consistency,’’ he said. “You find that through practice and all your off-ice habits.
“I think we did a good job this season. We had some adversity as well (including Oskar Lindblom’s battle with Ewing’s sarcoma, a rare form of bone cancer). We battled through it and came on really hot at the end.’’
Facing down tough situations like the Islander series can be filed away for future use.
“You’re going to run into some speedbumps in the regular season and the playoffs,’’ he said. “The Isles were the better team but going forward, I think we made a lot of right steps.
“I think we have the right group here. We can really do some damage. We just have to believe in each other. I think this experience that we just had is only going to help our group moving forward next year.’’