Flyers goalie Carter Hart, age 20, has been unflappable since being recalled from the AHL’s Phantoms on Dec. 17.
He beat a legend named Pekka Rinne in his second start, won in hockey-mad Montreal last month, and became the second goalie in NHL history to register eight-straight victories before his 21st birthday.
And so, no, it’s not really surprising Hart isn’t intimidated just because he figures to get the call and face the Flyers’ most bitter rival, the Pittsburgh Penguins, in front of nearly 70,000 fans Saturday night at Lincoln Financial Field.
“It should be pretty cool,” he said the other day of the Stadium Series game.
Hart has played in one other outdoor game. In a preliminary-round matchup in the World Junior Championship, Hart was the goalie for Team Canada as it lost to Team USA in a shootout, 4-3, before nearly 45,000 fans in frigid suburban Buffalo on Dec. 29, 2017.
Hart made 33 saves in a game played in the snow, making visibility almost impossible at New Era Field.
“It was crazy,” Hart said. “The weather was the hardest thing. … There was so much snow. If you look at the first outdoor game between Buffalo and Pittsburgh [in 2008], it was pretty much the exact same thing or maybe worse. They were shoveling the ice every two or three minutes, and after two minutes, you couldn’t even see the puck.”
The windy conditions were so bad that night that “for the third period and the overtime, there was a buzzer halfway through each [to switch ends], just to make it fair because the wind was blowing in one direction," Hart said.
For Saturday’s 8 p.m. game, forecasters are calling for rain, and there is a chance the matchup will be moved to Sunday.
“Knock on wood, the conditions will be better in this game,” said Hart, who will wear a specially painted mask, one that pays homage to the Eagles.
The Flyers have lost all three of their outdoor games. They lost in overtime, 2-1, to Boston at Fenway Park on Jan. 1, 2010; dropped a 3-2 decision to the New York Rangers at Citizens Bank Park on Jan. 2, 2012, and fell to the Penguins, 4-2, at Heinz Field on Feb. 25, 2017.
“These games are still special,” said captain Claude Giroux, the only Flyer to play in all three. “You get to play in a stadium where there’s history. I’ve been in that building a lot of times cheering on the Eagles.”
And Saturday, Eagles players will be there, cheering on the Flyers.
Fletcher Cox plans to be among them. The Eagles’ star defensive tackle tweeted the other day, “I’ll be there Saturday with bells on.”
Left winger James van Riemsdyk has played in five outdoor games: two with the Flyers and three with Toronto.
“I love them. I think they’re fun,” said van Riemsdyk, who grew up in Central Jersey and will have numerous friends and relatives at Saturday’s game. “It’s a cool experience to share with people.
"Obviously, you have a lot of people to share your journey with, and, for me, with this one being close enough to where I grew up, I can have lots of buddies here. Obviously, they’re more fun if you win, so we have to take care of business on the ice and enjoy it.”
Van Riemsdyk’s favorite outdoor game was the one at Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor on Jan. 1, 2014. The Maple Leafs defeated Detroit, 3-2, on Tyler Bozak’s shootout goal in a game played in a wind chill of minus-1 degree. The game had to be stopped at times to shovel snow off the ice.
“Atmosphere-wise, the one at the Big House was pretty sweet,” said van Riemsdyk, who scored with 37 seconds left in the second period to tie that game 1-1. “There were 105,000 people and the perfect backdrop with the snowfall, so it was pretty cool.”
Defenseman Travis Sanheim will be among the Flyers playing in their first outdoor game.