Hart looking to pick up the pieces after tough last start

Carter Hart

      When it came to smashing goaltender sticks over net cage crossbars, no one outdid The King, Ron Hextall.

      He transformed the act into an artform – overhand, sidearm, dramatic wind-up. And sometimes he even tried to break a few over opponents’ legs.

      Current Flyers backstop Carter Hart hasn’t quite mastered the one-and-done technique just yet. It took him four or five whacks to completely vent his frustration on the iron pipe at TD Garden the other night after surrendering six goals to the Bruins.

      But Hart’s teammates understood it’s just part of his competitive nature. If he can someday approach the level of Hextall’s overall brilliance, they all will be in good shape.

      Naturally, a day or two after things settled down and tempers cooled, Hart received some good-natured ribbing by his teammates.

      Brian Elliott started Tuesday’s 5-3 win at New Jersey, giving Hart some time to reflect and refocus. Now Hart gets a chance for a little redemption in Thursday night’s rematch at the Prudential Center in Newark, N.J.

      Elliott said the whole team enjoyed poking a little fun at Hart over the stick incident. Hart took it well.

      “Well, I had to retape a couple sticks yesterday,’’ Hart said with a chuckle during a media Zoom call after Wednesday’s practice at the Skate Zone. “My game stick was obviously in six pieces.

      “The boys were giving it to me. It was all in good fun. That’s what is fun about our group, we can poke fun at each other and share a couple laughs.’’

      Coach Alain Vigneault said he expects Hart to bounce back.

      “He’s proven that after an average performance, he can come back and play real well,’’ Vigneault said. “I expect him to do that tomorrow.’’

      Hart sports a 2-2-1 record with a mediocre 4.18 goals-against average and .880 save percentage. He has given up at least four goals in each of his last three starts.

      Maybe the break will help.

      “I got a few good days of practice under my belt,’’ Hart said. “I think it’s just going back to the basics, go back to the principles and foundations of my game.

      “One of the biggest things is just have fun. The last couple practices I’ve been having fun with the boys, just competing and working hard.’’

      One way for Hart to relax is to play his guitar.

      “I think it’s important to find ways to get away from the game,’’ he said. “So you can be more present with where you’re at. I feel like the last couple days have been really good.’’

      Hart was asked: Is he working on songs by George Harrison or Garth Brooks?

      “Have to go with Garth Brooks,’’ Hart said. “But the other night I was trying to learn ‘Bullet with Butterfly Wings’ by Smashing Pumpkins.”

      Ivan Provorov has seen Hart respond in situations like these.

      “Every once in a while sometimes it (a bad loss) happens,’’ he said. “A few goals go in that he thinks he could have stopped. But I think last game we played better than we did in Boston and tomorrow we’re going to try to have a better game than we did last game.’’

      >Giroux achievement draws cheer

      During Wednesday’s practice, Claude Giroux drew a round of applause from teammates for setting the new record for games played as Flyers captain (611) on Tuesday night. Hall of Famer Bob Clarke held the old mark.

      >Jersey trips almost like home games

      The Flyers say they like taking a bus to Jersey on game days, then coming home right after. Sleeping in one’s own bed has its benefits.

      “I think it’s nice we’re only a short bus ride away from Jersey (about 90 minutes),’’ Hart said. “We get to sleep in our own beds and I think that’s huge.

      “I know the first couple nights there in Boston, it’s tough getting a good sleep in the hotel bed when you sleep in a bed that hasn’t been your own for a long time. The more time we can be at home and at our own facility, the more it will help us.’’

      Added Vigneault: “With the COVID protocol and there’s no other place we could be in Jersey except our hotel rooms, the reason we’re doing this is we can bus in on game day. . .instead of staying there and not being able to do anything, guys are able to sleep in their own beds, practice in their own facility and be home.’’

      >Myers skates

      Defenseman Phil Myers, recovering from a fractured rib, skated on Wednesday but Vigneault said there is no timeline for a return to game action.

      “He came to me today and said he’s feeling better,’’ Vigneault said. “After watching him in practice, I don’t think he’s quite there yet. But I do believe he’s real close.’’

      >Short shots

      Vigneault called the performances of rookie defenseman Mark Friedman (filling in for Myers) “just OK. I expect higher of his play. I need to see a bit more urgency from him.” . . .Vigneault said he’s spoken to Jake Voracek about being “better five-on-five. Stops and starts. Being in a little bit better position for the offense to defense scheme.’’

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About Wayne Fish 2446 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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