Hart rebounds from outdoors failure with shutout win

Carter Hart

Vince Lombardi once said, it’s not whether you get knocked down, it’s whether you get up.

Carter Hart might be a little young for that one but he knows what the legendary Green Bay Packer coach was talking about.

After getting shellacked for six goals in two periods during the Feb. 21 Outdoors Game 7-3 loss to Boston at Lake Tahoe, the Flyers 22-year-old netminder needed some time to regroup.

He worked on his game all week with goaltending coach Kim Dillabaugh while veteran Brian Elliott recorded wins over the New York Rangers and Buffalo.

When Hart finally returned to work on Sunday afternoon, he looked like a new man.

In particular, a spectacular save on Buffalo’s Kyle Okposo in the second period highlighted his performance in a 3-0 win at KeyBank Center in Buffalo.

It was the third straight time the Flyers have now blanked the Sabres (all by identical 3-0 scores), including a pair of whitewashes by Elliott.

Meanwhile, the victory marked the 700th career win for head coach Alain Vigneault, who moved into a tie for eighth place alltime with Stanley Cup-winning coach Mike Babcock.

“There was no doubt in my mind and no doubt in his teammates’ minds that he (Hart) would have a good game,’’ Vigneault said via media Zoom call. “He had an excellent game.

“In the third period we got a little sloppy there but he had a real solid performance for us.’’

Buffalo star Jack Eichel returned from injury but he was not really a factor. For a second straight game, the Flyers’ 30th-ranked penalty kill shut down the Sabres’ No. 1-ranked power play.

Hart sounded matter-of-fact about his effort. He never seems to get too low or too high.

“Just getting back to basics,’’ he said. “Compete more in practice. And just having more fun at the rink and away from the rink.’’

Anything specific he’s been working on from a technical standpoint?

“It’s just trusting my game with all the work that I’ve done,’’ Hart said. “My last practice I was competing on every puck.’’

He claims he’s put the Tahoe game in the rearview mirror.

“It’s over, we’re past that now,’’ he said. “It’s over and done with. We’ve got 30-something games left this season.’’

Vigneault likes Hart’s temperament.

“You’re going to have peaks and valleys in your career,’’ Vigneault said. “Let’s not forget he’s a very young goalie. I see every game as a positive sign for him getting better.’’

A footnote: The Flyers have now shut out the Sabres a total of 181 minutes, 11 seconds.

>Vigneault joins coaching elite

Vigneault’s 700 wins puts him in elite company for alltime wins, trailing only Scotty Bowman (1,244), Joel Quenneville (938), Barry Trotz (855), Ken Hitchcock (849), Al Arbour (782), Paul Maurice (745) and Lindy Ruff (743).

All but Maurice, Ruff and Vigneault have won Stanley Cups and that’s the last career objective on AV’s to-do list.

“I’ve been very privileged, I’ve worked for some great organizations,’’ Vigneault said. “I’ve worked with some great GMs. Guys that really had my back. Those GMs gave me some real good teams (Vancouver and New York Rangers reached Stanley Cup Final).

“I’m working on that one thing I don’t have yet. And I’m going to continue to work real hard for that.’’

Sean Couturier, who joined Michael Raffl and James van Riemsdyk in the scoring column in the second period, said Vigneault was recognized for his milestone by the players.

“We got the puck and gave it to him, he’s earned it,’’ Couturier said. “He’s coached a lot of games in this league and he’s had a lot of success. It’s quite a milestone and not many guys get that many wins.’’

>Shoot-first mentality paying off

The Flyer reached the 38-or-more-shot total for a third straight game, all wins, and Vigneault believes that has something to do with the team’s success.

“We’ve been working since day one on our process,’’ the coach said. “We haven’t shied away from the fact we were winning games when we could have been better.

“We are improving. Teams that improve throughout the year are the ones that have the opportunity to compete for the Stanley Cup.’’

>Gostisbehere playing with confidence

For a third straight game, Shayne Gostisbehere was a real factor. He’s getting pucks to the net and igniting quick transition plays as he did four or five years ago.

“I think he’s playing with a lot more pop in his step,’’ Vigneault said. “He’s healthy right now. He’s playing with more confidence. Both offensively and defensively. If you make the right play at the right time, it just translates through your whole game.’’

Added Gostisbehere: “I think I’ve been really paying attention to detail. I’m realizing as I get older that less is more. You can do the same thing by doing the easy thing. Just jumping up in the play and using my abilities.’’

>Tough assignment in Pittsburgh

Now comes the tough part: For the first time in their history, the Flyers will play three straight regular-season games in an opponent’s building and that foe happens to be Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins.

“I think we’re playing some good hockey,’’ Couturier said. “We’re responsible with and without the puck. I think we’re trending in the right way. I think we can build off these two wins. We have a big series against Pittsburgh and they can mean a lot to the standings.’’

The Flyers hope to have Travis Konecny back in the lineup for Tuesday’s first game at Pittsburgh. He’s the last of the COVID protocol players to return to action.

About Wayne Fish 1449 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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