There is that famous saying, “You don’t know what you have until is is gone.” That is a very true statement. For some, it might be a lost love or perhaps somebody (or a pet) that has passed on and we miss them greatly. Sports fans are pretty similar too. We never truly appreciate how great a quarterback is until we have to throw the backup out there.
It’s the same with hockey fans. We can be pretty fickle. And like all sports fans, we can love someone one minute and revile them the next. Yesterday’s hero is today’s has-been.
Carter Hart has seen his share of ups and downs as a Flyers goalie. Some of that is because of the cast of characters around you. You can’t be that good if the team is letting you out to dry. And like most NHL goalies, they are entitled to a few soft goals every now and then; especially if they are getting 30-40 shots a night as sometimes happen.
On bad nights, there are people who may call for Hart’s head on a silver platter. And when he gives up just one goal with a 32 save performance the next night, he’s hailed as the second coming of Bernie Parent.
But with Hart being injured lately, it puts a lot of this into perspective. Some publications have suggested that the Flyers may explore trading him because he is worth something. Or that the Flyers have something in Sam Ersson and/or Felix Sandstrom and/or a free agent to be named later and should move on.
Over the last few games, the Flyers have lost four straight. One of them was due to a boneheaded play by Sandstrom in overtime. Sandstrom hasn’t been solid for much of the season. Ersson, too, has looked shaky; not the confident, young stud we saw after Christmas. And while their stats are ok by backup standards, we can see that when Hart is not in net, it’s a totally different feel for the game.
If we look at Hart for the last few years on the key goalie stats we see this:
Year Wins Shutouts GAA Save %
2018-19 16 0 2.83 .917
2019-20 24 1 2.42 .914
2020-21 9 1 3.67 .877
2021-22 13 1 3.16 .905
2022-23 21 2 2.90 .909
He’s not 25 yet. He’s gotten better every year in some way, even as the Flyers around him struggled. And outside of an injury plagued third season, he’s player well.
Let’s look at Sandstrom (26) and Ersson (23) in comparison. (Sanstrom’s stats include his five game stint last year.)
Player Wins Shutouts GAA Save %
Ersson 6 1 3.07 .899
Sandstrom 2 0 3.54 .889
Again, they aren’t bad as backups, but nobody is showing that they deserve to be full time starters. Based on what I’ve seen, I’d rather have Ersson, but neither one are close to what Hart has provided in net. He’s a steady, stabilizing influence for this team. And with him in net, the Flyers will always have a better shot at earning a victory.
Hart is one of the better goalies in the league. As far as the younger goalies go, he’s probably the best who is not over 25. We could have the opportunity to see something great on the ice. And when his backups are in, we are reminded on nightly basis how special Hart is.