Carter Hart has not been good this year for the Flyers, we’re all aware of that. He’s currently 6-5-3 on the year with a .888 save percentage and a 3.61 goal against average and has already been pulled three times in only 15 stars.
His numbers are eerily similar to those put up by Mr. Universe himself Ilya Bryzgalov in the 2012 playoffs. Perhaps more troubling though, is the fact that Carter Hart has let his bad play get to his head, despite the fact he normally plays with a calm level-headed demeanor that would make the Dalai Lama himself blush. He’s just lost right now.
Brian Elliott, on the other hand, has been really good so far, sporting an impressive 7-2 record with a .919 save percentage and a 2.29 GAA. Despite the drastic difference in their numbers, it’s been Hart who’s been getting the lion’s share of playing time, as he’s made 15 of the 23 starts so far, and it’s time for that to change.
At this point in the season, Elliott gives the Flyers a better chance to win a night in and night out and so the team should give the majority of starts to him.
Now to be clear, I’m not some hot-take artist screaming “HART SUCKS! ELLIOTT SHOULD MAKE ALL THE STARTS FOR THE REST OF THE YEAR!!!” I’m merely trying to say that in the interest of the team’s success as well as Carter Hart’s continued development, Elliott should get the harder starts right now.
Continuing to throw out a struggling, dejected goalie behind a defense that has provided him about as much coverage as a cocktail umbrella against a team like the Bruins is not gonna help Hart get back on track, and could ultimately cost this team a playoff spot. However, if you lean on Elliott a bit, both Hart and the Flyers might just get where they wanna go.
The Flyers schedule for the rest of March includes 12 games in 21 days, with exactly zero consecutive off days and two more sets of back-to-backs. Hart is going to get 25-30% out of those starts based on sheer necessity, and I’d argue it should be more like 35 or even 40% based on Elliott’s injury history. However, the Flyers can and should give Hart the easier matchups in order to restore his confidence and give them a better chance to win.
For example, the Flyers next 8 games look like this:
- VS Capitals (3/11 & 3/13)
- AT Rangers (3/15 & 3/17)
- AT Islanders (3/18 & 3/20)
- VS Islanders (3/22)
- VS Devils (3/23)
Hart should get the start against the Rangers on the 17th and the Devils on the 23rd because they are the easier half of a tough back-to-back matchup, and it might be wise to start him once against either the Isles or Caps just to help keep Elliott fresh.
Hopefully, Hart will use the extra time off to work on his game and clear his head. I get the feeling he’s just one or two good starts from getting back and track, and starting him rested and against weaker competition may be just what the doctor ordered.
I still believe in Hart as the Flyers’ goalie of the future, and I’m not giving up on him because he’s had one bad season in a strange year that has been challenging for everyone.
If Hart can get back on track this year, perhaps he can be given another shot at the starting job, but for the time being, he should be the Flyers’ backup.