Carter Hart shuts out Jets to close first half of the Flyers

Flyers, Carter Hart (Mandatory Credit: James Carey Lauder-USA TODAY Sports)
Flyers, Carter Hart (Mandatory Credit: James Carey Lauder-USA TODAY Sports) /

The Philadelphia Flyers had their most complete game of the season on Saturday night. It was a group effort, but they downed the mighty Winnipeg Jets 4-0 to close out the first half of the season before they enter their All-Star bye week.

Carter Hart was spectacular as he earned his first shutout of the season. It is also just the second shutout the Flyers have had all year. Hart stopped all 40 shots against a high-octane Jets offense, including five shots each by Mark Scheifele and Nikolaj Ehlers. His counterpart, Connor Hellebuyck, didn’t fair as well. He was pulled midway through the third period after giving up four goals on 26 shots.

Noah Cates got things rolling with a goal at 15:15 in the first period. It is his second goal in as many games. He was assisted by Morgan Frost and Owen Tippett.

Flyers beat Jets 4-0 before NHL All-Star break

Coach John Tortorella jumbled his lines up a bit. Zach MacEwen had to sit out due to a broken jaw incurred during his fight in Minnesota. In his place, Kieffer Bellows, who hasn’t played in a game since December 17, scored his first goal as a Flyer. It was also his first point as a Flyer. In addition to Bellows, hitting the ice, Justin Braun played in his first game since January 2nd. Tortorella went with seven defenders. Wade Allison was a healthy scratch for last night’s game.

In the third period, the Flyers added two more insurance goals. Tippett scored his 14th goal of the year at 3:11 into the third. Just three minutes later, Tony DeAngelo added one more to finish Hellebuyck off.

The Flyers finish off the first half of the year at 21-21-9. For a last place team last year, that’s really exceeding expectations. If it weren’t for the dearth of injuries to start the season, as well as all of the OT losses, it is possible that the Flyers could be in a playoff position right now.

A few weeks ago, I said that end of January would say a lot about the direction this team is going in. The Flyers, in that stretch, went 3-3-2 against teams that are, for the most part, playoff bound. They defeated the Ducks, Red Wings, and Jets. They fell to the Bruins (go figure), lost a stinker to the Blackhawks, and then lost a heartbreaker to the Jets. There were two overtime losses to the Kings and Wild.

The Flyers remain just four points behind the sinking Islanders to move up into sixth place in the division. Two points more, and they are tied with the Penguins for that last playoff spot.

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When the Flyers return to action, they will be on a four-game homestand. They can start by helping their own cause by sinking the Islanders on February 6. Following that, they will face three tough Western Conference teams: Oilers, Predators, and Kraken. The season is in their hands.