Lately, I’ve had this nagging feeling. I can’t quite shake it and I don’t like it one bit. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but something seems to be wrong with Carter Hart. There are a few possible factors, which I’ll explore in a bit, but it’s hard to tell. He doesn’t seem as easy in net as he did before
Hart was the savior of this franchise right up through December. He kept this team in every game. Even during the 10-game losing streak, he helped the team battle through all of their injuries. Some of those losses were lost in overtime. Few were blowouts. Hart was the heart of this team.
Since returning to play on January 5, he had won four games and lost two. He has also given up 16 goals in those games. That also includes getting chased halfway through the Boston game.
Without being able to talk directly to him, all of this is conjecture. It could be one of these things. It could be none of these things. It could be all of these things. I’m not sure. so, let’s examine some possible issues with Hart.
Flyers: Hart is Hurt
Just before Christmas, Hart got injured coming into a game against the Carolina Hurricanes. He took a hit to the head when Rasmus Ristolainen shoved a player into him. He missed the next two weeks after being placed on concussion protocol.
Concussions are funny things. Sometimes you can seem like you don’t have one, but are still suffering from them. Everyone reacts differently to them. As Flyers fans, we have seen how they have affected players such as Eric Lindros, Keith Primeau, and Chris Pronger.
For goalies, not being able to see the puck properly is bad. If it is happening because of a concussion, that’s really not good. If Hart is still suffering from concussion-related issues, he needs to sit and play another day. He needs to be healthy. A goalie who can’t judge distance adequately or could be slow to react will get pummeled in the net.
This is not a time to be macho. If he is hurt, he needs to help the team and he can do that best by sitting.
Flyers: Rise of Ersson
Athletes are well aware that someone is always waiting to take their spot. All you need is someone to get hurt and someone comes in and takes your place and then….boom!….you are out of a job. It can happen to hall of famers as well as scrubs on the bench.
Since Ron Hextall left, it’s been a never-ending cavalcade of goalies until we got to Hart. But let’s take a quick look at this. When Hexy retired, the starting goalie was John Vanbiesbrouck. Beezer lost it to Brian Boucher. Boosh lost it to Roman Cechmanek who lost it to Robert Esche who lost it to Martin Biron who lost it to Ray Emery who got hurt and then the Flyers turned to a committee with Boucher and Michael Leighton. And all of that was in just 10 years! I haven’t even gotten into the Bobrovksy-Bryz-Leighton-Mrazek-etc era of the last 10 years either.
So, if Ersson, who is playing spectacularly, is breathing down Hart’s neck, is it causing Hart some stress? Is he freaking out that the Flyers may replace him? Sometimes healthy competition is good, but sometimes a goalie conundrum can rip a team apart. If Hart is too focused on keeping his job, he may not be focused on the game.
Is he stressed about being traded? After all, he could go for a really bad team…not just a kinda bad team like Philly but is also kinda good. But he could end up in Phoenix or Ottawa or Anaheim for some high draft picks. If he really loves it here, that could stress him out.
Flyers: Other Stresses
Being a goalie is one of the most stressed-out positions in all of sports; right up there with quarterback and pitcher. Is Hart stressed from carrying this team? Is the load of keeping this team in games night after night wearing down on him?
Mental health is a hot topic. More and more athletes are coming out and sharing their need for a sports psychologist. Eagles great Lane Johnson has talked about it. So has goalie great Marc-Andre Fleury. If Hart is psyching himself out, for whatever reason, it might not be a bad thing to clear his head. If he doubts himself or his abilities, that will show up in the games at some point.
Is there something at home going on? Could be. Is playing in Philly getting to him? Possibly, but the fans have loved him ever since he arrived, so this is also unlikely.
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Flyers: Something Else?
Is there a rift with Torts? Most likely not. The coach has been high on praising him all year. I can’t see this happening. A rift with his teammates? Outside of maybe a goalie, his teammates have been singing his praises as well. Does he have a sickness, like COVID or a stomach bug? Is he getting enough sleep at night? What’s with him?
Maybe it is just a funk. Players go through these all the time. Sometimes you are hot and sometimes you are not. This could just be one of those things. And if that’s all that it is, that is the best possible thing.
Whatever it is, I hope he can figure it out soon. He is the best goalie that we’ve had in years. I hope he can be a mainstay for years to come as well.