When we last saw Carter Hart in action, the Flyers goalie was looking razor-sharp.
In his first full NHL season, he had played a huge role as the Flyers had won nine of their last 10 games. They had won nine straight at one point in that stretch, during which Hart went 7-0 with a 1.72 goals-against average and a .942 save percentage.
In 11 appearances since returning from a lower-abdominal injury, the 21-year-old goalie had a 9-2 record and a .934 save percentage.
But Hart’s hot streak — and his team’s — was interrupted when the NHL‘s regular season was suspended (and later declared ended) on March 12 because of the coronavirus outbreak.
Now Hart and his teammates are trying to regain the momentum they lost.
Some of the Flyers, including Hart, are taking part in small-group workouts — both on and off the ice — at their Voorhees practice facility. Some are working out in their hometowns in the United States, Canada, and Europe.
Hart was on the ice Monday in Voorhees for the first time since the season was paused 102 days ago.
“It felt great to get back out there,” Hart said after the workout. “It’s nice to see some of the boys are here, and just to get back out on the ice and feel the ice again [was productive]. I didn’t have much ice back home, so it’s nice to get back here and get into a rhythm, and see some of the guys.”
Hart had been back home, in the Edmonton area, during the long break.
He faced shots “maybe four times before I left there,” he said. “It’s probably the longest I’ve been off the ice ever in my whole life. I think I went three months without skating, so that’s a pretty long time. But the first time you get back on the ice again and just skate around, it’s a pretty good feeling.”
The Flyers had climbed into second place in the Metropolitan Division before the season was paused. Training camps are set to resume July 10 if some health and safety issues can be resolved between the NHL and the players union.
Eleven NHL players tested positive for the coronavirus at their small-group workouts last week, clouding whether the season will resume in early August.
If it does start, Hart said the Flyers will be ready to regain their momentum.
“I think it’s important when we get the camp rolling July 10 that we come in and everybody is raring to go, and we use those two or three weeks — whatever they give us — to get ready,” he said. “And I believe maybe one exhibition game, or however it’s going to go, to get ourselves prepared. I know we have the right group here that will be ready to go whatever date they tell us we’re going to play. I’m sure everyone was staying ready the full time, and whenever we get the nod to play, we’ll be ready.”
Playing games at a still-to-be named hub city with no fans will “definitely be different,” Hart said. “You’re seeing different leagues across the world that have started opening up. There’s an Asian baseball league that had blow-up dolls as fans in the stands.”
Hart, preparing to play in the Stanley Cup playoffs for the first time in his career, laughed.
“That was pretty creative,” he added. “I think a soccer team put up a bunch of cardboard cutouts [as fans]. I mean, people are coming up with some creative ideas. We’ve played in front of big crowds of people our whole careers, so it’ll definitely be different, It’ll just be something we have to do.”
Hart, who said he played lots of video games with his teammates during the break, said the round-robin tournament gives the team a great opportunity. Before they compete in the Stanley Cup playoffs, the Flyers will face Boston, Tampa Bay, and Washington to help determine where the teams will be seeded in the Eastern Conference.
“Like Coots said the other week,” Hart said, referring to teammate Sean Couturier, “we’re coming in as a No. 4 seed in the conference, and in the seeding games here, we can only move up, so I think we’re in a good spot.”
The Flyers announced a summertime version of their annual Community Caravan Tour. It will be a socially distant, mobile pep rally as the team prepares for the NHL’s 24-team tournament and the Stanley Cup playoffs.
Flyers alumni members and Gritty will be among the traveling party.
The team said there will be giveaways, including beach balls, bucket hats, and kites. The first two stops will be July 7 in North Wildwood and July 9 in Ocean City. Both events will take place from 5 p.m. to 6 p.m., and the caravan routes will be announced at a later date.