It’s been alluded to a thousand times but the quote always bears repeating.
“It’s not whether you get knocked down,’’ legendary football coach Vince Lombardi once said, “it’s whether you get up.’’
The common interpretation of that bit of wisdom implies everyone gets knocked down at some point but there’s no guarantee everyone is going to get up.
And so we will have to wait until next season to find if Flyers goaltender Carter Hart will have what it takes to bounce back from what might best be described as a disaster of a season.
The Flyers announced on Thursday their netminder will miss the remainder of this campaign with the previously disclosed sprained medial collateral ligament injury in his left knee.
Hart, 22, was hurt during the Flyers game at Pittsburgh on April 15.
The question now becomes whether Hart can recover next year and return to the level he performed at in his first two seasons.
Unquestionably, this season was a dud. Although it started out well, things went south pretty much in a hurry.
By the time it was over, the numbers weren’t too pretty: 27 games with a won-loss record of 9-11-5, a 3.67 goals-against average and an .877 save percentage.
This in contrast to his first two seasons: 2018-19 – 31 games with a 16-13-1 W/L, 2.83 GAA, .917 SP; 2019-20 – 43 games with a 24-13-3 W/L, 2.42 GAA, .914 SP.
Defenseman Phil Myers has faith in Hart and believes this is just a “bump in the road.’’
Myers was asked if he believes Hart can resume a high level of play during a pre-game media Zoom call prior to the Flyers-Devils encounter at the Prudential Center in Newark, N.J.
“Absolutely, without a doubt in my mind,’’ Myers replied. “You know, he was an absolute wall for us last year, especially in the playoffs (where the Flyers came within one win of reaching the Eastern Conference finals).
“This is just a bump in the road for him. You know he’ll be back stronger than ever next year. We believe in him as a group. We believe in him as an organization. He’s a wall for us back there. I have no doubt in my mind he will be back stronger than ever.’’
Coach Alain Vigneault initially said the injury was not too serious. But as days became weeks, it was clear there was something wrong.
Now, with only seven almost meaningless games left on the schedule (six after Tuesday night’s game), there’s really no point in risking a re-injury and the possible threat of surgery.
“Now is not the time to reflect on any particular player,’’ Vigneault said. “Even though Carter’s season is over. We still have work to do here, seven games to play. So, once the season is done, I’ll be able to answer those questions in more depth.’’
Vigneault made it clear the decision to deactivate Hart was strictly a medical one and had nothing to do with management or the coaching staff’s evaluation of his play.
>Hayes benched for first time
Vigneault made a surprise announcement prior to the game, disclosing he was making center Kevin Hayes a semi-healthy scratch.
While banged up a bit, Hayes could have played but Vigneault hasn’t been satisfied with the Massachusetts native’s recent play.
Hayes had played in all 118 possible games since joining the Flyers prior to the start of the 2019-20 season. He came on board as a free agent, agreeing to a seven-year, $50-million contract.
After posting 23 goals in last year’s pandemic-shortened season, Hayes has scored only 11 in 49 games this time around (again, a pandemic-shortened slate).
“Kevin, like all players right now, isn’t a hundred percent,’’ Vigneault said. “But also, in my estimation, even though he isn’t a hundred percent, he should be playing more efficiently.’’
Hayes really hasn’t had a steady line to work with this season, part of that due to the COVID pause in February and part of it due to injuries and sporadic play by a bunch of Flyer forwards.
“He should be playing better than he is right now,’’ Vigneault reiterated.
How did Hayes take the news?
“Well, he’s a proud young man who wants to be a Flyer and wants to be a big part of being a Flyer,’’ Vigneault said. “His play is dictating why he’s not playing. I really believe he can be more effective at both ends of the rink. Also, there are some young players we want to take a look at.’’
Vigneault replaced Hayes with forward Carsen Twarynski. Also, defenseman Samuel Morin returned to the lineup and Robert Hagg received the night off.