You know who else is getting a kick out of watching Carter Hart develop? The veteran head coach.
This is Alain Vigneault’s fourth stop in his 17 seasons. In the first three, the teams already had veteran goaltenders who knew their way around the rest of the league.
Montreal in the late 1990s, Vigneault’s first stop, had Jocelyn Thibault and Andy Moog. Roberto Luongo was a well-established NHL goalie when he and Vigneault arrived simultaneously in Vancouver in 2006. And in New York, Henrik Lundqvist had been the King of Broadway for eight years when Vigneault stepped in.
Hart, 21, is a different experience for Vigneault, who is relishing the young netminder’s stumbles as much as his crisp play.
“This is the first [goalie] I’ve seen grow before my eyes and I’m really enjoying it," Vigneault said. “I can’t say if he’ll get to that [level]. You’re talking about two Hall of Famers there [Luongo, Lundqvist]. But I can say that what I’ve seen so far, the attitude, the time he puts in to be the best, and the quality of the kid. He’s a good kid. ... If I was a betting man, I’d bet on him.”
Hart will start on Saturday against Tampa Bay, which has won nine in a row and is playing better hockey than any team in the league. Vigneault is well aware that the young goalie’s next phase is gaining more consistency away from home. Hart’s numbers, like the Flyers, are dramatically different at home (1.52 goals against average entering Saturday) versus on the road (4.01 GAA).
“I don’t just like the good times,” Vigneault said. “I also find that it’s good that the struggles, and what a professional athlete has to put himself through to become the best that he can be, [are interesting]. It’s not easy. If it was easy, everybody would do it.”
Justin Braun (groin), Nolan Patrick (migraines) and Chris Stewart (flu) skated along with the Flyers goalies on Saturday morning. Braun is out until after the All-Star break. Patrick is out indefinitely and Stewart will not play on Saturday. ... The Flyers were +125 according to PointsBet on Saturday morning, easily (and understandably) the highest they’ve been underdogs at home this season.